I got off work early today, woohoo!! I happily skip to the bus stop. If I’m lucky I’ll get a bus that I can walk into, not one that others rush and fight over to get a space. I have promised myself that I won’t struggle for bus space Ever Again. However I have developed a coping skill, this is it: when the bus is approaching and people are chasing it I estimate at what point it will stop and try to position myself there. When it does stop I should be located somewhere close to the door and the desperate passengers – in a bid to get in, will push me into the open vehicle. Smart huh? It takes some precision and a brave heart (considering the fact that a crowd is rushing towards you), but it works for me. That way I don’t have to fight or push to get into the bus. Sometimes I miss and get pushed away but it works oftentimes!
Today the crowd hasn’t built up and soon enough a bus comes through. We all walk in – like the civilized people we are 😉 and I move towards the last row. Someone has taken the window seat by the right so I sit next to him and resume chatting on my BBM. The driver shouts that he is going to collect #150 from us for the ride. Why not the usual #100? The driver replies that there is traffic ahead so he has to compensate for the loss of fuel in the hold up by collecting the extra charge. That is the problem with these drivers. When it rains: bus fares go up. When there’s traffic: up. When it’s past 6pm: up. When they see lots of passengers at the bus stop: up.
Passengers complain and argue with the driver about their insensitivity (someone actually calls him a thief), while we all put our notes together and try to sort out our change before paying the driver. By the time we are done the passenger to my left is owing me a #50 and for him to give me he has to break his #500 naira. The driver claims not to have change. What to do now?
We are in crawling traffic as an accident involving a bus, a tractor and another car has just occurred on the CMS bridge. The passenger decides to buy something from the hawkers who are showcasing all sorts of cold fizzy soda, biscuits, plantain chips, cakes and beef rolls to passengers stuck in the hold-up.
However the hawkers are reluctant to give out their change when they find out the passenger only wants a goodie worth #50! Luckily for him the other guy on my right – the guy who took the window seat – is trying to buy bottled water with a #50, so they plan:
The plan is simple: Right-hand-man will give left-hand-man his #50 who will in turn give it to me. Left-man will give right-man his #500 to buy two bottles of water worth #100. Hawker will be happy to sell 2 bottles and will not mind giving back #400 change.
Simple plan, yes? No? Then read again.
The window-seat-guy aka right-hand-man collects the #500 and hails a stocky guy selling sweaty-cold bottled water.
RHM: “Gimme two bottled water” *picks one bottle, offers him the #500 note* “Gimme change”
Hawker: *Realizing the “trap” to get him to break the note* “I no get change! Gimme my water!”
The bus crawls forward. The hawker is running alongside the bus. Right-man is angry that the hawker has refused to sell the water despite the fact that they are buying two bottles, and in his anger he flings the bottle of water back into the plastic basket.
RHM: “Take your water! How can you tell me you don’t have change?”
Hawker: *angrily shouting* “Why will you throw my water like that? You’re very stupid!”
RHM: “Why are you angry? Aren’t you the one that said you won’t sell?”
The Hawker is enraged at this point. He drops his basket of water by the roadside, runs towards the bus and attempts to punch RHM through the window.
RHM gets up and grabs the hawker. They begin to exchange punches!
The bus crawls along. The bus driver pays us no attention, while the rest of the passengers look behind with interest.
LHM who is the source of this fight stands up to “assist” RHM by attempting to pull him away – or is he punching the hawker too?
I’m now seated in-between two standing men, fighting another man through the window of a moving bus.
I actually find the situation amusing, until RHM’s elbow attempts to hit me in the face… oh no you don’t! I try to face the other direction but LHM is also standing and blocking my view. If you’ve sat in a Lagos-customized commercial bus you’ll understand that the situation before me is quite… tight. I proceed to update my BBM status and while the fight is going on, friends are urging me to keep my face out of range. Yeah right, my face is out of range alright. It’s behind LHM’s bum!
Hawker: “Do you know who I am?” *throws punch* “Do you know who I am?”
RHM: Throwing punch and elbowing me in the process “Who are you?”
Hawker: “I am a force (miltary/police/NSCDC) man! I will deal with you today”
RHM: “If you are a force man what are you doing selling water?”
Hmmm.. this is deja vu. Didn’t I hear something this similar while sitting in a bus earlier this morning?
Eventually we get past the accident and the road ahead is free as a bird. The bus accelerates and I look behind me to see the hawker running as fast as he can, trying to catch up with the bus and still give RHM the beating of his life, perhaps.
Up ahead are more hawkers and we find someone who finally agrees to sell the water. LHM and RHM cool themselves off with their hard-earned bottles, I’m given my hard-earned 50 bucks and we speed the rest of the way down to Costain junction.