It’s a weekday and I’m half way home from work. I cross the express and approach the “Second Rainbow” bus stop. I quickly board a mini bus and a little girl hops in just as quickly after me. She sits quiet, minding her business. I am (as usual) engrossed in my phone and don’t pay her much attention.
We get to a major bus stop. Two people alight the bus. She asks me: “Where is this place?” I respond: “Ajboju”. She rushes to alight the bus as myself and other passengers hail the bus driver to slow down to let her jump down. our eyes lock briefly as we both glance at each other through my side of the vehicle. I think I see a lost look on her face and feel a little bit sorry for her, wondering what her story is. That thought quickly leaves me as my phone lights beep. Another ping. I return to my phone.
As we approach the final bus stop, the bus driver says “Ya money, line by line”. I hand him a 200 naira note and keep pinging. As he begins to slow down I ask him for my change. He cocks his head and eyes me from an angle. “Which change?” I look up from my phone and reply. “I gave you 200 naira nah”. I’m not much for speaking pidgin. My friends can attest to that. I’m sure conductor and drivers are tired of the intricate English I use to communicate with them. But I digress – my 200 naira…
“I gave you 200 naira nah”, I reply. The driver then turns to look at me properly and says “No be you pay for that small girl?”
“What? Which small girl?”
“That small girl wey sit beside you. No be with you she enter bus?”
I am shocked at this point. My phone indicates more pings are dropping. Now is not the time for pinging. I quickly regain myself and reply the driver.
“No be with me she enter o! Abeg abeg* gimme my change”
The driver returns to his driving. We are both lost in thought. Apparently little miss must have entered the bus immediately after I did so it would look like we were a pair. She talks to me to look like we were in conversation, and she drops off at her bus stop, leaving me to pay for her transport. That look which we exchanged at the bus stop when she alighted? That look must have been her feeling sorry for me and not the other way round. Shoot!
I repeat my request again to Mr. driver, and he tries to explain his stand. I say that I will not pay for someone who I do not know. Why did he not ask her when she alighted the bus? I want my change back. Quietly he gives me my 100 naira and I jump down.
I’m sure the next time, Mr. driver will make sure he collects his fare from all customers before moving his bus.
I can’t help but wonder how long the girl has been executing this innocent trick of hers, and how far she can keep traveling like this until she gets caught.
Oh well, as they say: “This is Lagos” and “eko oni baje**!”
*Abeg – Please
** Eko oni baje – literally Lagos will not spoil, a colloquialism for Lagos will prevail