Technically, I am not exactly a JJC(Johnny Just Come); I have been here for a while and I can say that I know my way around a bit. Well, something you learn quickly when you get here is how to ask the right people for directions. ‘Cos you see, in Lagos, everyone wants to act like they know the land even when they don’t and misleading new comers has got to be the best prank of all time.
As a certified public transport commuter, I love to keep busy while in a bus particularly to make it seem time is moving quicker and because Lagos traffic makes you want to pull your hair off their roots out of frustration. One of my regular routes is a popular bus stop which is a constant beehive of activity. The first things I noticed about this place were young men who harassed women with tiny yellow covered bottles screaming, ”pink lips, big breasts, big buttocks”. I was disgusted at first as I darted my eyes to the lips of the young man who accosted me to see if they had been coloured pink by this his wonder-working potion. It became hilarious after some time though. Some actually had pink lips that looked so odd in contrast to their sun-darkened skin and they accosted men too! Abeg, who pink lips epp? How does it stop me from being caught up in dreadful Lagos traffic?
Its Friday evening and there’s a spring in my step, eager to get away from all the wahala for the weekend. I notice the old woman who has already made her bed for the night by the road side. For a split second, my heart breaks and I wonder, ”How do people get here? Where the hell are her family members? Did they know she was here? Or was she suffering for something she did?” People drop in money into her bowl as they pass by; a 50.00 here, 20.00 there even miserly 10.00s’ – that should get her something to eat before she retires for the day eventually. You see, in Lagos, anyone can have a good day’s meal no matter how much you earn. I think that’s a good thing.
I recall another beggar at the office – a woman too – and shake my head. ”She is okay jare; which kind wound be that wey no dey heal..” my colleagues argue as we talk about the regulars along the road. Because in Lagos, bandages, songs that sound like dirges at a funeral and children are used to appeal to passers-by to put something into your plastic bowl. Emotional blackmail much? We fall for it anyways – some of us at least. Begging has become some sort of lucrative business that even well dressed young men – especially men – will come up to you with some tale, spoken in very phonerized English whose summary is, ”I don’t know if you could just spare me something so I could get home.” I thought they were all stories people told to feel experienced and all what not, but here it was happening right before my eyes, day in day out! ”O di egwu, really”.
The newspaper stand is alive today. The crowd is made up of mostly men who are done for the day and have no desires of heading home to their wives and children. Thank God it’s Friday, right? The argument no pass Buhari matter. They analyse and shout and point fingers and talk about the history of Nigeria with the authority of historians. I chuckle and mutter to myself about how we love to have these pointless arguments over and over and over again. I am sure they weren’t too hungry or had not had my kind of day at work.
I alight at the junction and begin the last lap of my journey home. I have commuted from the bus stop in one of these yellow tricycles which seem a safer contraption when compared to the commercial motorcycles whose riders try to enact Aspahlt 6 races on our already pitiable roads in the midst of typical Lagos traffic. Smh. It’s a good thing you don’t find them in every corner of Lagos. Anyways, I realize I have made no friends in my neighborhood to call out to as I walk down the road. And I wonder how that adds up because I do have a lot of friends here – that I never get to see. Lagos has a way of having everyone too busy to see beyond their noses. I definitely do not like that it does but I am guilty too. I used to think that maybe when I got my own car, it would be better. But even now, everyone is selectively on the road. ”Fuel is 145 naira per litre”.
The air on this part of town is quite different. You already feel it as you slowly descend the linking bridge connecting the two divides of town. I have never really put my mind into being pissed at this, but the thing is, the cool kids live on the island and the uncool kids on the mainland. Well, you can’t blame the students of this school of thought – I love being on the island. There are a lot of nice things to see and most importantly, the serenity here is dope. Well, for some places. Just as some places on the mainland are also serene and dope. I still think Lagos is one big mad house regardless of how cool or uncool you area is. Your style of struggle is just different.
When I first planned on moving to Lagos, someone explicitly told me he didn’t think I’d survive Lagos; whatever that meant. Well, here I am, surviving Lagos the best way I can and falling in love with the city little by little by little. The traffic is terrible – don’t get me started on that; the people here fill every spot across the whole cadre of human differences and kinds- opportunistic, honest, con artists, cultured and uncultured people, wanna-bes’, amazing talented people, fun and weird people, you name it. But I love that this place pushes you out of your comfort zone and to do and be more. Life quickly passes you by in Lagos, you have to insist on being part of it. Here’s to more traffic, more adventures and to meeting more amazing people in the future. P.S: I’m not fully in love with you yet, Lagos. I think I will be.
Almost in love, The Quiet One.