Friday, September 17, 2021

Chronicles Of A Lagos Commuter

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At 5:10am, the heat was already permeating my skin and sticking my clothes to my body, but I was oblivious to it, as I dragged my forearm across my forehead to wipe off the sweat that had coated, I walked briskly to cross the road amidst the honking cars filled with sleeping passengers and glassy eyed drivers.

I had woken up 20 minutes late today and knew getting a vehicle would be tougher than usual, except I got lucky.

40 minutes later, my legs had started to cramp up and I was tired of shuffling from foot to foot, my arm muscles had tensed up from flagging down vehicles to no avail.

I stared at the congestion of cars on the road and the passengers asleep in them, and felt a tinge of envy. At that point, all I wanted was to get into a vehicle to rest my aching legs and throbbing feet.

The sky had since turned a light blue with telltale signs that the sun would rise early today.

As I stood, my back hunched a little from resting on my hinds, I heard a call from a vehicle going in my direction. Everyone around me rushed forward towards the call. Wrapping my arms firmly around my bag, my legs pranced forward towards the entrance of the vehicle; all aches forgotten. As we all shuffled to get in, I could feel an elbow digging painfully into my ribs. My tiny frame was being shoved from the side and obscenities yelled into my ears. I was determined to get in and nothing was going to stop me, I stumped on a foot and heard someone yelp, I felt a twinge of pity but pressed forward and finally secured a seat. While rubbing my aching ribs, I smiled in satisfaction. Just another day in Lagos.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Today I am trying to keep my eyes open; it had been a long day of writing proposals and attending meetings and now sitting in the usual 9 pm traffic jam, all I wanted was to sleep without worrying I would be driven past my stop. My droopy eyes slid across the faces of every other passenger in the vehicle. I felt like a voyeur, a part yet apart, stealing glances at each occupant, as the man next to me scratched his beard while trying to keep his eyes open and failing just like his neighbor, whose head rested on his shoulders.

My eyes begin to slide shut again, shutting out my thoughts; hoping to catch some winks before I got to my stop.

As we drove towards the E1 axis, a commotion could be heard ahead, snapping me out of my sleepy state. Cars were honking and trying to press forward amid the traffic. My curiosity peaked at what could be the cause, then I noticed the two men approaching a blue Toyota Corolla with a dented fender. They barely looked a day over 20 years with their jaunty walk and dreaded heads. One of them, pulling up his sagging blue carrot jeans, with “Guchi” boldly labelled on the sides, walked up to the driver’s side and began whispering inaudibly to him, gesturing for him to put down his window. The other in a similarly dressed manner, walked up to the other side of the front seat and with the butt of the gun he whipped out of his pants, smashed the side window of the car, then reached into the vehicle and grabbed the driver’s phone and wallet before pulling his head back out. The driver realizing what happened too late, tried to swerve and escape but alas, the deed had been done. In fear I pushed my phone underneath the chair and wedged my bag behind me. My co-occupants also frantically began seeking out spots to hide their coveted properties.

Both culprits walked unhurriedly towards us, as cars began scrambling left and right in bit to avoid facing a similar fate as the driver of the robbed vehicle. The vehicle I was in moved closer, and a front light flashed in their faces; I saw the smug looks they wore. They looked very pleased with themselves and the fear they instilled in people. Tucking the stolen phone and gun back into the band of his pants, the thief vaulted the demarcation on the road on to the other lane and his accomplice followed suit.

My heart began beating in a more relaxed manner, all thought of sleep gone from my eyes, but I still didn’t make an attempt to pull out my phone or bag. In same vein, my fellow occupants started recanting experiences they had had on the same road and how it had become a common occurrence there. But all I could think of were their faces as they strolled off and I knew I wouldn’t be forgetting those faces any time soon.

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