I stopped my car when I saw a friend standing on the roadside looking desperately at his watch. He was relieved to see me and asked for a lift. Time was running against him and he had to be somewhere else in half-an-hour. The trouble was that he was so worked up that he forgot to tell me where he wanted to go. I did not ask him because I thought I had plenty of time to do so. But I was wrong! “My car gave up in this terrible heat,” he said and emptied half my tissue box to wipe away his sweat. “It would not start.......I think the radiator overheated.”

He then went on to blame the traffic, mad drivers and a lack of a comprehensive transport network. “We all rely on our cars to get to places,” he said, “and there are no underground services or trains. When are they going to build a proper transportation system?”

I told him cars were cheap and so was petrol and maybe public transport was not essential. He retorted that road building too was expensive and cost the government a lot of money. He saw a perfect opportunity to take his case further when we slowed down because of heavy traffic.

“See what I mean?” he said, and threw his arms up in the air. “I am not going to get there in time.” He fumed and his face was getting redder with anger. I feared he was going to have a heart attack and I thought I would have to make a detour to the hospital. I threw him a chocolate bar to try to take his mind away from his troubles. He furiously threw the chocolate right back and glared at the unmoving traffic.

“What am I going to do now?” he asked, and when he repeated the question for the tenth time in a space of a minute, I thought of throwing him out of my car.

“I’ll tell you what you are going to do. Call whoever you are supposed to meet and tell him you are going to be late,” I told him.

He looked at me as if I had lost my mind. He then asked me hysterically: “What is the matter with you? Do you think it is funny? Dead people don’t answer phones!”

I was puzzled, but only for a second. Then, I asked him: “Are you going to a funeral?”

“You should pay more attention!” he said angrily. “Didn’t I tell you I was going to the hospital to collect the body of my dead uncle?”

I didn’t think he did, but I was not going to argue given the state he was in. So instead, I told him how sorry I was and added that I would have to make that detour to the hospital after all!

“What do you mean?” he demanded to know.

It was too late to back out, so I told him. He shook his head and murmured something unprintable. At last, I got him there and he bolted out like a bullet. I was not sure then why was he in such a great hurry to claim the body of his uncle. I guess I was insensitive, but I now realise he was in a state of shock.

Later on in the afternoon, he smiled at me meekly as I paid my condolences after the funeral. He thanked me and apologised for being rude. It was good to see him smile again. Also, it is always good to know that there are still some people left who care for their relatives during their last moments on the earth.

The writer is an Oman-based freelance columnist. This article has been reproduced from the Khaleej Times.