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Veda Shorts: The Bus Battles - Literature - Nairaland

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The Bus / The Silent Battles Of Life / The Bus Journey (2) (3) (4)

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Veda Shorts: The Bus Battles by paraltero: 1:15am On Mar 15
Life is funny. Life in Nigeria is funnier. Life in Lagos though? Well, take out your handkerchief because you’ll be in tears and you won’t be sure if it’s from the humour or the thought that hell must be overcrowded and the devil decided to purchase real estate in Nigeria.

So heading home from work every day, exhausted from another unfulfilling day, wondering what I spent five years in a university doing only to end up in a dead-end job that had nothing to do with all those courses I was kissing lecturers’ behinds for, I would study the roads and pedestrians as I made my way to the bus stop. At every intersection I passed between my workplace and the bus stop I intended to board a homebound bus are always small crowds of people, also corporately dressed, some looking even more depressed than I was and a few looking like the only thing stopping them from leaping into the Lagos lagoon was the distance it would take to get there. They were all waiting for buses to get them back home where they would spend roughly four hours if they were lucky before heading back to work the following day, tired, sleepy and very irritable. No wonder we could walk into some offices and witness shouting matches between employee and customer. “Bastard!”, “Idiot!”, “ko ni da fun e”? In a banking hall? With the customer service rep? Hah!

Of course, Lagos being Lagos, the buses were long in arriving. Traffic had already built up from Victoria Island to the mainland and was looking like the Israelite exodus from Egypt. People were beginning to trek singly or in small groups, to cover the distance gradually till they could find a bus to board. I always imagined that one day, someone would be trekking small small. Next thing, he or she has trekked all the way home to Ikeja from VI and would not spot a single bus to board along the way. Okadas were available, no doubt – for people who had like three debit cards and shop for clothes at the mall, not those of us that still haggle prices under the bridge at CMS. Those three cards would come in handy because the prices; Lord the prices the Okada guys would demand just to get you to the mainland! You would wonder if you were Dangote’s daughter’s husband – or Dangote’s daughter. Once, one guy walked up to a waiting Okada guy and asked how much it would cost to get him to Costain. 4,000 Naira was the response. The guy first hissed – a long and complete hiss, before bursting into laughter and walking away, jacket over his shoulder, laptop bag in hand, muttering to himself that it’s not his money someone would use to pay bride price or buy land. Make no mistake; someone else actually paid the okada guy the same amount to the same destination. Those of us whose pockets were telling us things we didn’t want to hear were stunned.

Then when a bus would actually arrive – hei gawd: the battle of Muzanga. Those corporately dressed guys and ladies that have been speaking through their nose to customers since morning? Don’t underestimate them o! Among them are boxers and wrestlers, potential WWE champions and Olympic gold medalists in boxing and wrestling. Once they spot the bus arriving, everybody primes themselves for the struggle ahead. Phones are held tightly in hand (pickpockets wear suits apparently, but that’s a story for another day), bags are worn properly so they don’t fall off, ties are stuffed in bags, cuff-links are removed, sleeves are rolled. Eyes dart and as the bus draws closer, the crowd moves closer to it, as if drawn by a special force of gravity the bus possesses. It’s even worse if the bus door is open because people take leaps of faith they’ve never taken in church or mosque before. There was once I saw an empty bus turn into my office street and did not stop once but somehow, by the time it got to the junction, it was full. And someone was hanging off the doorway too. Someone in a suit, suddenly giving conductors a run for their money.

If the driver has the foresight to keep his door closed, well, then you’d know that somewhere on these people’s CVs, opening all kinds of doors is also present. While the driver would be yelling for them to wait for him to come open the door himself, the more industrious suit and tie people are already attempting their own door-opening spells. One person would try the handle. Another person would slide open the window on the door and reach in to try opening it from inside. Meanwhile, a third would take the most direct route and try pulling the door off instead. The more creative ones would cut out the whole door nonsense, locate an open window, throw in their bags and dive in head-first. Then when the door finally opens – this is even more amusing because everyone would be trying to get in at the same time but no one would actually succeed for a while: so there’d be an empty bus with a crowd of people trying to get in without success like some sort of force field was preventing them. When one person finally gets half of his or her body in through the door, the frenzy doubles. I once witnessed one guy succeed in getting into the bus and was about to sit at the last space right beside the door. Before he could settle into the seat, someone pulled him out of the bus from outside and just as quickly as he fell out, someone else had taken his space and held on to the seat like it was bound for heaven lest he suffer the same fate as the previous near occupant.

Once, one lady got on a bus and dropped her bag to keep space for her friend/colleague who was clearly not up to the struggle. Of course, another lady fought her way onto the bus and sat on the bag before asking whose bag it was. The owner of the bag piped up, declaring the seat occupied and demanding the other lady vacates it as it belonged to her friend with the bag as evidence of that occupation. Without a word, the occupier removed the bag from under her, located the nearest window and flung it out, leaving the bag’s owner completely speechless and I, very amused.

On days like this, I just turn around, head back to the office, switch on the AC and use the office Wi-Fi to stream movies till 10 pm when the rush would have died down and I wouldn’t have to fight a second civil war to get home. No be me kill Jesus.

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