The Lagos Commuter
It had been a long day at work; my blazer had begun to feel quite itchy from been worn for so long. I was desperate for a long bath to wash off the stress of the day and couldn’t wait to get home. The bus I was in moved at a sluggish pace. I hated these Lagos yellow Vanagon buses; they are infamous for how they delayed passengers and took too much time searching for people to get on board not minding those already in the bus. My derriere had gone numb from sitting on the hard wooden chair for long. Shifting from one butt cheek to the other no longer helped and my eyes were starting to water from the smoke that filled the interior of the vehicle.
After what felt like an eternity, but was probably 15 minutes; the bus sputtered forward, engine groaning as more smoke accumulated, stinging my eyes further making me shut them while mumbling obscenities at the driver and his conductor who kept screaming “ikorodu eni kan… (One more person for ikorodu)” and a passenger responded sarcastically “sé fé gbé eni ye si wa lori ni?” (Do you want to put the person our heads?). Finally, the vehicle pulled out to the highway, and we were on our way, much to my relief.
As always, the traffic congestion for which the City of Excellence is known for, had already begun. Slowly but surely, we moved along.
I rested my head against the glass staring out the window lost in my thoughts. As we closed in on an intersection, my attention was drawn to cars that had begun diverting into the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) lane in a bid to escape the traffic. Some passengers began clamoring for the driver to also swerve into the BRT lane so we can also get ahead of other cars. The driver turned deaf ears to their chattering and kept on the same slow-moving lane we had been on for the past 30 minutes. Flicking my wrist, I stared at the watch and knew the bath time I had scheduled just reduced to a brisk shower time -if I could still keep my eyes open- I sighed and stared out once more and watched as a man walked to cross the road into the BRT lane unto the other side. He didn’t seem to be aware of his surrounding and walked briskly. As he stepped onto the lane, a BRT bus sped down the lane at a fast rate and everything began to move slowly yet very fast before my eyes. I knew the man didn’t see the bus, I tried to call to him in my head but I knew it would be too late. As I watched I saw a yellow vanagon – that had entered the BRT lane due to the traffic -from the corner of my eye speeding from the opposite direction, smoke rising behind it.
As the bus closed in on the man, the headlight flashed on his face and I could see his expression as he came to the realization that his life was at stake in that moment. In those split seconds; the BRT driver tried to stop the impact, stumping on his brakes, as the tires screeched and skidded on the tarred road, but at the speed he was driving, it was impossible. I watched as the bus rammed into the man hard, flinging him about ten feet forward, his head hitting the floor hard and blood pooling instantly. In the same instant a speeding motorcycle who had just sped out from behind the BRT to over-take went crashing into the speeding vanagan that was coming from the opposite direction. The impact sent the motorcycle and its rider careening under the tires of the bus, crushing the rider’s leg in the process.
I sat and watched in horror trying to process what happened as people rushed towards the scene of the accidents. The screaming rider was promptly pulled out from under the bus and I could see the crushed leg had been torn apart; his knee was only connected to the rest of his leg by a silver of flesh. I gulped and looked away towards the other man hit by a bus and wondered if he would survive the head crash as my bus pulled away from the spot. I stared until It was too dark to see anything but shadows of people milling around the scene.
As I sat shivering from what I had just seen, all thought of my previous lethargy forgotten, all I wanted to know was if the man who hit his head on the road made it or not and how the cycler would probably never ride again.
I knew I would be having nightmares in the next weeks to come from what I had just witnessed.
The Lagos Commuter.