I like public transportation. I like it so much that when I do get my car, I’ll probably just keep hopping the bus for the fun of it. Public transport in Lagos is the s*** y’all!
There’s no better way to start your Monday morning than with a passenger-conductor squabble amidst a rain of spittle. And the insults – OMG, they’re genius! If it’s a Yoruba conductor, mehn, you better hope that your grandmother and the rest of your ancestors are truly dead, for all the curses that’ll get rained on them. If it’s an Igbo conductor and driver, then be ready to get a lot of “sharraps” and “gerrouts”, and be roundly yabbed over everything from your weight to your cheap suit and the fact that you’re not able to afford your own car, yet want to call the shots in someone else’s ‘office’.
My favourite part of public transport is what I call my Coaster Blues. I just love Coaster buses, the yellow and black ones and the blue and white ones. If you’ve ever been on one, you’re bound to have noticed that the seats were actually made to accommodate four people, but trust Nigerians – “FIVE-FIVE!,” the sly conductor is quick to yell.
If you’re lucky – and this is luck you have to pray for – you get to sit with lepas (like yourself, I hope) and then the imposed five-a-seat seat is not so tight. But God help you if you’re lepa and have to sit with a bunch of ‘big’ people. It’s worse if you, the lepa, are sitting by the window – make friends with it fast because you’ll most likely be kissing it for the rest of the journey.
But do you know what especially pisses me off? When some fat person gets on the seat and then starts asking everyone to “shift” to make room for a fifth passenger, like the person is unaware of the fact that with him/her there it’s already a filled seat!
“Shift.” Pause. “Make una shift naaa!” Then a huge heave with their fat bottoms if you do not comply fast enough.
There was a day when another lepa and I sat close to the window, and two obese people decided to become seatmates four and five. The fat man sat first. I was almost giving the window a bear hug along with the kiss when the fat woman came up. “Shift naa,” the fat man said with an air of self-justification. He repeated it two more times, then heave-ho, and I was making love to the side of the bus. Even though I was the one closest to the window and suffering the most indignity, I chose to remain quiet and uncomplaining. That’s another thing: you never want to get into a Coaster fight. It does not end until you come down.
But the girl beside me was having none of that. She soon went into a long indignant rant, raining curses on the fat man who, rather than apologise for the inconvenience, had the audacity to call her disrespectful for not wanting “to make room for an older woman”. I mean – the gall!
In this kind of situation some shameless Nigerians always love to get all self-righteous and play the “ you have no respect” card. Like duuh, admit you’re wrong fool! And by the way you don’t know my mother, neither are you she, so I can abuse you all I want you buffoon, and no Sango will strike me dead! Heck, we’re no longer in the dark ages. Welcome to the new world of free speech for everyone – young or old!!!
Anyway, a friend of mine would later gist me about another fat woman who got the treatment she deserved – she was forced to pay for two seats!
Lesson: If you do not have your own car, do not go beyond a certain weight! And if you’re already fat, please lose some weight, at least for the sake your health! I mean, they should make a law for overweight people on public buses like they do for airplanes!
I long for that day, I tell you. But hey, these are the streets of Lagos. Nothing – apart from agberos money – can be counted upon. So till the glorious day of regulated transport fares for all buses with double seat and an extra charge for overweight passengers, I’ve just got to learn to keep loving glass. Being a human sandwich may not be so bad after all.