Between Coca-Cola, and Pepsi Cola, what great difference is there? the name, and the prestige that goes with the brand name is the be-all that influence a consumer’s choice. But would you kill another person over your choice of brand? I guess not. But I almost did. I almost got a poor lady killed over my indecision between Pepsi and Coke.

I guess I was too thirsty to think very straight. Do you know you can die more quickly from thirst than from hunger? It is a scary realisation. So to prevent death- my death- I thought well to fix the thirst. Now none of the soft drinks makers have had the good sense to adopt the this line: “FIX THE THIRST, Neither the makers of Coke, nor the makers of Pepsi. But I had to fix that thirst with a bottled water when the red and white label of the Coke plastic bottle caught my attention. A voice sounding still and small whispered to me, even as noisy as the Mile 2 area was, I heard the voice distinctly say “this is not a thirst you can quench with just water”. I said “give me coke” and as I reached for the Plastic-bottle-packed dark liquid, it moved sharply away, out of my reach and out of my sight. A big noisy truck zoomed past, blaring its horn very loudly and leaving thick black smoke in its wake. And my thirst spiked dangerously. I was in danger, or it was a mirage.

In a jiffy, the hawker was back, with the assorted collection of drinks gathered together with big blocks of ice, in a basin and perched on her head. A chilled-looking plastic bottle of Coke in her hand thrusting it through the bus’s window at my face saying “coke na one twenty oga, oya e shey kia!”. Coke is one hundred and twenty Naira, I know, and I was as in haste to have a drink as she was to make a sale, why was she hurrying me? But I didn’t want a Coke no more. There, inside the basin on her head, half buried by the a chunk of ice and bottles of Fanta, Sprite, Mirinda, mountain Dew and cans of Amstel Malta was a plastic bottle of Pepsi. Good Old Thirst-Busting Pepsi, My Mummy’s all-Time Favourite, and my adopted choice. I wanted a Pepsi. She suddenly withdrew the Coke she was poking at my face, and disappeared from my view together with the collection of ice-cooled soft drinks she carried on her head.

It was a moment before she came back to my side of the window. Two Danfos had zoomed past side-by-side, swerving about as if they were trying to knock each other out of the road; they were closely followed by a siren blaring bullion van, and that too was followed by a blue pick up van with a handful of kobokos wielding and riffle-brandishing policemen hanging unto its rails. My throat was a notch or two more perched, but my attention was briefly taken away from my debilitating taste: the fat lady sitting to my right, whose weight was actually grinding me hard against the bus’s window to my left was saying: “ahaa, oga buy wetin you want buy na, before you go let motor jam the poor woman”. The challenge was picked up by one baba sitting right behind me: “Don’t mind him, the youth of this generation, they never decide. In my days….blah… blah… blah… blah… blah. A female voice that must belong to a very young lady, from somewhere in the bus was tongue-lashing the Baba… Soon the rising crescendo of their querulous voices were drowned out by the loud coughing and belching sound of the rickety bus as it pulled out of the bus stop and under way.

There, was the hawker running beside the bus, by my window with the heavy basin bouncing on her head. She was stretching a bottle of pepsi at me. I couldn’t see any Coke now, and I was sure Coke was what I wanted for the thirst. I shook my head and pointed at her bouncing basin. Promptly, the bottle of Pepsi disappeared and it its place was a turgid sachet of pure water. She looked pathetic chasing that bus to clinch a sale . I thought it decent to put her out of her misery before a speeding vehicle knocked her down and add to my load of karma. I took the pure water off her hand.

The sachet of water felt cool like the real thing. Cool to the touch and reassuring like a cool spring in the middle of a desert must feel. The bluish print on the package read Holy Michael Pure Table Water. I should pay for the water, even if I wasn’t a pure water person. But as hard as I tried, I couldn’t get the money out of the hip pocket of my jean. The bus was swiftly gathering momentum as it sped along the expressway. The jogging image of the soft drinks hawker have started to recede from my view, I still couldn’t get the money to pay out of my jeans pocket. That made the decision for me. I returned the sachet of pure water, thinking I will buy either a Pepsi or a coke at the next bus stop of when we inevitably get stuck in a traffic. I threw the packaged water out the window. I’m sure the struggling lady would have caught it adroitly if that reckless Okada hadn’t cut her off , nearly running her over. The water landed on the heated hard tarmac and exploded, shooting a million droplets of water everywhere.

There she was, screaming something at the bus as we left her, fuming behind in a puff of Molue exhaust fumes, giving somebody: the bus, the driver or me the finger- all five fingers of one hand. The same hand that had shortly been outstretched for her money.

I hear severe thirst can make a person go mad. The same kind of madness that make you see things that are not. A mirage. Such things as Coke, Pepsi, even pure water are made as life-savers against thirst. But then, there are great varieties to chose from. You can also chose to die of thirst by failing to chose Coke, Pepsi or Pure water. I made my choice. But I never got to quench taste till I got home and helped my self from the tap at the kitchen sink. It felt cool, though warm and metallic, and abhorrent.


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