Impetuous

Raining in South Philly

خلق الإنسان من عجل سأوريكم ءاياتي فلا تستعجلون

“The human being was created from haste; I will show you My Signs, so do not be impetuous.” [Qur’an, The Prophets {21}, verse 37].

It wasn’t raining when I left the house but it sure was raining now. That little voice in the back of my head said, check the Weather Channel; see what the weather’s going to be like today. But I was short on time, as I am every morning. I try and delay my exit from my house down to the last second because like every other hard working American, I didn’t really feel like going to work just yet. And neither did my umbrella.

“Do not be impetuous”.

It wasn’t raining when I left the house but it was raining now. My nice pair of brown Bostonians were quickly turning a darker brown, that brown when leather gets soaked. Staring out into the gray, humid afternoon, I darted in and out of the makeshift safety of a shop awning, woefully trying to hail a cab. I took a short recess after three failed attempts, snatching my phone out of my bag and bitterly typed a short message to my Tumblr feed as my gray suit [which I just had dry cleaned] soaked up more of the steady drizzle, Only in the village of Philadelphia does it take 30 minutes to hail a cab.

“Do not be impetuous”.

Apparently this was all some sort of cosmic baseball game. I hadn’t struck out, I had foul tipped. The white Crown Victoria pulled to the side and put on its hazards. As I opened the door to the cab, a tire screeched somewhere off in the distance. Distance, not in the West Philadelphia instance, but somewhere in the cosmos, where some rubber was hitting the road.

“Good afternoon, sir. Where to?”

“8th and Wharton, please.”

“Do not be impetuous”.

As the cab took off, dodging a number of other hasty wet afternoon drivers, turning the corner at 40th and Walnut, a wheel in my head also turned:

“Do not be impetuous”.

How long did it take for this cabbie to get here? No, not in the immediate sense, but cosmically. How long did it take for him to get here? They say that light at the end of the observable universe is just getting to us now after 13-plus billion light-years. I don’t know about me, but I have no idea how big or vast 13 billion light-years is, but it’s got to be father than 39th and Walnut to 8th and Wharton.

“Do not be impetuous”.

So I began to mentally backtrack my charioteer’s journey to the corner of 39th and Walnut. Perhaps he had a fare that had taken him from Center City to 34th and Chestnut or 33rd and Walnut. And perhaps from there he simply drove in a straight line to 39th and Walnut where my cosmic outcry sent its signals out and up until it was Received. I smiled at this but soon the forces of gravity worked to pull at the corners of my mouth until I was bouncing up and down in the backseat, my chin in my hand. But where did he come before that? Chinatown? Mount Airy? No, no. These thoughts were too young, too new. So I journeyed farther back to when he boarded his flight in his native Rangpur; or was it Dhaka? I can’t remember and he was very busy driving with the wet roads so instead of disturbing him, I went with Rangpur. After all, his flight number was 4533; three large suitcases and one carry-on his baggage. I was tempted to ask him how his flight was when we struck an abnormally large pot hole [even by Philadelphia standards].

“Do not be impetuous”.

His mother, Vijaya, looked too young to be wearing that wedding dress. But she was 18 and beautiful and Lokesh looked equally young and equally handsome. The food was delicious. Moong Dal, Alu Bhaja, Chanchra – don’t forget the Ruhu Fish Kalia, and sweet Pulao, rich Mutton curry, Tomato Chutney, the list went on and on. A year later little Ganesh [the operator now of Crescent Cab number 2234] and soon after his darling little sister, Anjali, were born. The picture was getting fuzzy again as the pot holes continued their salvo on the undercarriage of the taxi cab.

“Do not be impetuous”.

Ganesh’s great grandfather, Gopala, sat in the temple, sipping hot Assam tea; it would be a millennia or more before the East India “trading” Company would export tons of this stuff to quaint little locations like Grimsby, Kings Cliffe, or Bentley Heath. So for now, Gopala would sit, enjoy his tea, and contemplate such enigmatic things as the Gateless Gate. Once again, my matinée was disturbed by the riotous pot holes of the City of Brotherly Love.

“Do not be impetuous”.

By the time I got back to Gopala, his tea, or rather Camellia sinensis, of the variety sinensis, hadn’t sprouted in the valleys of the southeast Himalayas.

“Would you like me to take Grey’s Ferry?”

“Yes, that would be fine.”

For eons and eons this destination went back. There were many more cups of tea and even more potent drinks, but I couldn’t count them all. After all, it was already late, and I was trying to get home to meet my wife. How hasty I had been! This meeting, this pick up, this flag drop had been in the making for time heaped upon time. And I only had to spend thirty lousy minutes waiting for Ganesh and all the rest of his ancestors to show up on the corner of 39th and Walnut, in a rain storm, to pick up one slightly-taller-than-average, bearded, suited, and mildly soaked, afternoon speaker, to drop him off to his lovely wife so that they could finally spend a little time together. My apologies if I have ever tried to rush You.

“Here you are, sir.”

I handed him a twenty. “Keep the change.”

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