I boarded the Molue at Obalende, heading for Oshodi. I was lucky to be among the 44 sitting, and there amongst the 99 standing was one shrivelled, washed-out and tired-looking old crone of a woman. she was clinging onto the backrest of my seat, because her hands couldn’t reach the handrail above her head. Each time the rickety bus jerked forward, and that is too often, my shoulders would connect with the discomfiting hard knobs of her claw-like knuckles. I was too dead beat to worry about the Gagool. She was contributing her meagre quota to the heat, the noisome smell of unwashed bodies, the noise, and the general atmosphere of the Molué.
There was the colicky cry of a baby from somewhere at the rear of the bus. The very yelling could have blown off the roof of the noisy bus, but the cry wasn’t doing enough to drown out the racket from the row in front of me. Two people- a very fat woman and a very thin young man had started to quarrel. The Sumo-Wrestler-looking fat woman had occupied more than her rightful share of seat space; and the thin young man that has a neck like an ostrich was sitting at the edge with only one part of his buttocks, and pushing hard back against the unyielding human mountain that seemed bent on completely dislodging him from the seat. I couldn’t believe such a small body could emitting so much sound of complains, the way the young man went about verbalizing his forlorn plight. The big woman was not to be out-shouted, she was giving back as much berating as she was getting. Despite the hullaboo , a preacher was carrying on in a would-be Queens English about how Jesus love us, and how we will all go to heaven and ride in Hummer Jeeps before the end of this year 2013 and how those who don’t believe will die by fire in Jesus name. The loquacious middle-age man sitting to my right, had a mobile phone pressed to his ear. He was going on and on in an endless transaction about 12 feet Containers of Motorcycle spare parts. he was speaking stutteringly in Igbo, and the lots of his loud talks with the faceless respondent, whom I’m sure was also yelling his or her head off too, were demonstrated by his hand gestures and general body language. I found that a disturbance too.
Soon, we ran into a traffic jam on the Third Mainland Bridge. The heat, the smell, and the general jungle nature of the bus became too claustrophobic for me. A cure-all-remedy sales man had joined in the bedlam. The Ibo businessman had ended his phone conversation, and “Cover me with the blood, Jesus Cover me with the blood…” had started to scream out of the man’s Tecno mobile handset as unnecessary gospel music. And that was the last straw that broke the back of my endurance. I could have thrown my hands up in the air and yelled in frustration, but who would have cared. This is lagos.
I got up, and offered my seat to the Old Crone. She was so appreciative and full of blessings-invocation, and contributing to the sound pollution that I wished I hadn’t given my seat up for her. I regret giving up my seat to take the Crone’s place, standing and hanging onto the handrails. I regret too, because with my hands holding onto the handrails I couldn’t read and reply the BBM chat messages, or read and comment on facebook status, or keep up with Tweeter. It was very much like jumping from fry pan to fire. Terrible got a new meaning for me.
Standing there hanging on, I was tightly pressed on all sides by the seething mass of sweating smelly bodies. Well, I got my own back, because I was sweating no less than the prime sweater in that bus. I’m sure I was doing good in the smelly department too. Some dude that seem to have a huge sausage or torchlight in his crouch was pressing hard into me from behind. I was so pushed from behind that I was also pressing into a lady in front of me. I had begun to get an erection the instant my shaft was trapped between the cleft of her bums.
The conductor was collecting the fares, wriggling through the tightly packed mass of sweaty, smelly bodies. I managed to retrieve my money from my hip pocket, and gave the conductor a hundred Naira Note, he gave me a piece of shredded playing card to indicate that he was owing me change. He was taking 50 Naira for Standing and 70 Naira for sitting. I told him I was paying for the Old Crone’s seat. I made it clear to him that I gave my seat up to the Old Lady who was previously standing, that I will pay 70 as if I was sitting, and he should collect only 50 Naira from the old Lady as if she was standing. He told he had no time for my grammar, waved me off as if I was some annoying fly that had perched on his nose, and turned to ask for his fare from the thin Ostrich-neck dude. The Thin Man said he was going to pay only 20 Naira, that the Fat Lady who’d occupied the greater space on the seat should pay the rest of his fare. The conductor started to rain abusive words on him, asking him if he was a JJC or an oloshi. Soon everything was smoothed out. The thin Man paid the full fare of 70 Naira, despite he was sitting with half a arse; I paid 120 Naira to cover mine and the Crone’s fare. The conductor called out Iyana-Iworo as the bus neared the Iyana-Iworo bus-stop. Some people yelled back: Owa o! Iyana-Iworo wa o! The old crone and the Fat Woman also echoed “Iyana-Iworo wa o!”, indicating that they wished to disembark at the I Iyana-Iworo bus-stop.
Soon, the bus slowed down as it reached the bus-stop. Commuters were jumping onto the bus to take the place of those jumping down from the Molué. The athletic dexterity of the jumping off to disembark, and jumping on to board the bus is a beauty to behold. It was really entertaining to watch. I never get tired of watching it. The Sumo-Wrestler-looking fat lady and the old crone had not gone down when the bus started to gather speed to move on and away from the Iyana-Iworo bus-stop in continuation of the journey. They had to jump down or get past their bus-stop to the next. I could never have imagined that such a fat person as the fat woman is a bundle of agility. She landed fair and square on her feet, running. The Old crone followed suit and I held my breath as she was out of the bus and in mid-air. She landed fair and square on her feet, ran a few yard to absorb the shock of the impact of the landing. It looked trained and efficient, so expertly done that I let out an involuntary “wowsome, whoop whoop!” It was nothing new really, I witness and partake of the beautiful imperfection that Lagos Transport System is, everyday.
Peel the surface a Lagosian, you’ll find a tough survivor. The Traffic Wahala, besides other vagaries of Lagos Life, toughens the people. You can’t live here, at least one week, and not become an alagidi. An alagidi is a one who survives by brains as well as by brawn. Your personality make up does not get in your way in performing extra-normal feats as a Lagosian. That is the Gidi in Lagosians.