One of the most prominent features of Lagos state is that it is over-populated. For the smallest state in the country it accommodates over 9,113,605 people. Yep, that’s true. Living in Lagos requires a lot of energy and a certain amount of alertness – a spring in your step, if you will. You also have to be very street smart to survive!
Overpopulated locations come with alot of issues, few of which are cramped residential areas, scarce resources, consistent road traffic and a wide variety of characters! Not a single day goes by without several interesting scenes. It is in light of this that I present to you one of the craziest bus episodes I’ve had in a single day… The Drunk, The Fighter and The One-way Driver.
EPISODE #1: THE DRUNK
I’m at the bus stop where I take my daily flights to the Island. Ever since I found out that I could take a straight bus to VI (Victoria Island) instead of hopping 3 or 4 buses, things have never been better. I get to work on time due to the reduced hassle in long waits and walks to the various stops. We also get to sleep in the bus if we so wish! 😀
I find out that my favourite driver (who is a speed demon and can maneuver ANY traffic jam we are in) won’t be taking us to VI, but it’s okay cause there are always other buses. However this bus is red, one I’ve never seen before. The driver seems chatty and makes a few of the waiting passengers laugh, so I guess he’ll do, and I take the seat directly behind his.
Soon we take off, and passengers settle in for the 40 minute – 1 hour-long drive. Some plug in their ear phones while others recline to resume the sleep they interrupted to get ready for work. I close my eyes, but am not really asleep as I’m still aware of what’s going on around me. It’s a skill we Lagosians have: We’re asleep and probably even dreaming, but we can hear and feel everything going on around us. Comes in very handy when you don’t want to miss your bus stop. Let’s call it “meditating”.
So, 15 minutes into the trip and I’m meditating. I feel the bus accelerating but it’s no biggie, roads are this free in the mornings. However when I hear the passengers screaming “slow down!!” and I feel the “whoosh” sound of a vehicle close to my open window, I know we just missed crashing into another bus.
The passengers take the liberty to chastise the driver who retorts – a normal driver-passenger conversation, but what is slightly unusual is the slur in his voice. No one pays attention to it until he begins to talk to himself – or is it to someone else?
“You want to suck my blood, it will not happen”.
“I will suck your blood before you suck mine”.
He stops the car, slurs a few words and proceeds to pee somewhere behind the bus.
Our “flights” never have stop-overs until we get to our destination, so this is a first. Even though it is obvious that some people are getting impatient, we choose to ignore him. There are a lot of troubled people given the economic situation, so he is allowed his 5 minute-madness.
There isn’t a lot of traffic at the Lagos (Costain) Bridge linking the mainland to the island, which is supposed to be good news. But by the time I feel the bus gliding again I remember there’s a lot of water beneath us, so I stop meditating and clutch my bag tight.
The passenger beside me has his hand to his mouth, as if to block a scream. Soon people start shouting again:
“What is wrong with you?”
“Are you okay?”
At this point the driver is also shouting back at the shouting passengers – and as he does so he is diverting the bus to another route. This Driver. Is. Definitely. Not. Okay.
“Where is he going?” I ask.
The guy beside me is speechless, all he does is shake his head. His hand is still to his mouth.
A passenger has offered to drive the bus on DD’s (Drunk Driver) behalf but he has refused and has been shouting, telling us for how long he has been driving and that he has never had issues with his driving, His slur is affecting the flow of his story.
Believe it or not, I go back to my meditative state. 13 passengers are on Red Alert. We need 1 passenger to pray, and that passenger will be me.
I hear the bus stop a few minutes later and my eyes fly open. We are in an unfamiliar environment, and all sorts of paranoid thoughts fill my mind but as the bible says: “I set my face like flint …I shall not be afraid.
(For those of you who think this is one of my bible verse misquotes, I’m sorry to disappoint you. This was intended to fit the situation :D)
The driver steps out of the bus and peeps at us through my window. His eyes are bloodshot.
“Gimme my money!!”
He had previously asked us to pay up, and we did – but in order not to distract him from his already distracted driving, a passenger offered to hold on to it.
“Gimme my money!!!” The driver keeps shouting.
The “treasurer” submits the bulk sum to him and we gently encourage him to get back into the bus and keep driving. I haven’t bothered to look at the time – at critical moments like this, it’s not about how early I can make it to work, it’s about how safe!
As the driver re-enters the car and drives off, I am relieved to find out that the route links us back to our destination. We are now approaching the CMS bus stop.
DD: *turning round to look at us* Am I giving anyone change?
Passengers: *shouting in unison, scared that DD is not looking at the road* Noooo!
We get to CMS bus stop (which is not our destination) DD stops the car.W
“Is anyone dropping off here?” he slurs.
“Noooooo, WE ARE ALL GOING TO V.I, NOT CMS!!!” I am definitely part of the Choir of Agitated Passengers screaming in unison by now.
Thank God there is traffic ahead, so DD can’t speed any more. I forgot to add that we almost had another accident sometime before and after this point but let me not digress.
Finally, we are approaching the first of several bus stops where passengers will begin to alight. The speechless man beside me – now sure that he will make it alive, starts to talk about how relived he is that he is about to get off the bus. This statement seems to incite DD and he hurls insults at the passenger.
DD: “You’re a bastard! All your children are bastards!!”
Passenger: I agree, keep driving.
DD: “Why should you talk like that? Do you know I am a prince?”
Passenger: “Then what are you doing driving a bus?”
Passengers: *pacifying DD* Driver don’t mind this man, he doesn’t know you are a prince, please drop him let him go and leave us alone
DD: *Now at bus stop* Gettout of this bus now!
Passengers: *Still pacifying DD* Droooop naaaaaa!
Bonny Camp is one of the Military cantonments in Lagos. Cars are not allowed to park there, but fortunately there is a bus stop, which happened to be the one where the first set of passengers alighted. After the exchange of words which I just mentioned took place, DD drives off a few meters after the bus stop, parks by the road and alights the bus.
Passengers: “What is it again?”
DD: “I want to pee”
Angry Passengers: “We are late for work!! How can you be drunk at this time?”
All these statements fall on deaf ears as DD looks for where to pee. In the stroke of time, passengers make an interesting observation and point towards the walls of the Army Barracks:
“This is Bonny camp, the signs on the walls say POST NO BILL! YOU CANT PEE HERE!”.
Jackpot! DD scrambles into the car and speeds off.
The next bus stop is mine, Yippie! After several people shout the bus stop’s name to a grumbling DD, I manage to alight the bus in one piece.
Phew! Thank God I’m safe! 😀
It was quite a way to begin my day, but little did I know that I had other bus encounters waiting for me on the return trip home.
** TO BE CONTINUED**