As a young adult, I remember how my mum’s mood used to vary after a long day at work. It would be ranging from just tired, to nitpicking and getting angry over the little things. I always tried to stay clear at least until after her afternoon shower. I didn’t understand then but I think I have a clearer understanding now that I’ve reached an age where I’ve started to move around on my own without restrictions. They say that interaction with your environment and the people in your environment can sometimes affect your mood and they are not wrong because a typical day in Lagos is a crazy day. It’s not surprising though, Lagos is the economic capital of Nigeria, and an air craziness is mainstream. When I get frustrated, I tell myself “e reach to vex”.
In Lagos, everybody is rushing off to somewhere. The roads are usually congested with cars and people — Lagos and traffic are synonymous, there’s even foot traffic for pedestrians on the road. I know I’ve almost gotten road rage a couple of times because people would just randomly stop on the road without paying attention to the people behind them. It’s not like the roads are smooth, they’re hard to navigate and sometimes very narrow especially in Yaba, Lagos where I frequent a lot. It gets even more annoying when the touts or vendors touch and try to drag you off to their stalls when you’re trying to rush off to work or school. This just means that you’re exhausted before you even start your day. You want to get mad and rightly so but at the end of the day you realise that they’re just going about with their daily hustle and there’s really no need to start a fight, so you try to shove down the feeling of annoyance, which can get triggered at slight provocation, and get about your day.
Public transportion is another thing entirely, sometimes touts or conductors wake up angry and decide that they are going to make others angry too. Like the saying:
“Hurt people hurt people”
It’s understandable though, I entered a bus recently and the conductor was complaining that he can not “carry anybody” for less than the asking price because of the situation of the country and the removal of fuel subsidy. He said each day he makes either 14–15k and he buys fuel worth 15k at the end of the day and he drives from dawn till dusk. He remarked, “Shey na work be that?”
He probably has a family depending on him but he’s unable to provide for them as he should so he transfers his aggression to his passengers. I’m not saying that he isn’t wrong, I’m saying that I can definitely understand why he reacts the way he does. I’ve had instances where I’ve been insulted unprovoked but tried not to say a word because honestly, I get where they’re coming from but it doesn’t chase away the lump in my throat and the annoyance and irritation I feel afterwards. Sometimes, I walk it off before having any interaction with the people I care about, I’ve decided that I’m not going to transfer the aggression and the cycle ends with me.
Not everyone keeps shut though, I will not lie that the fights and arguments can be interesting to share with your friends and family especially after a long day. I’ve realised that there’s always a story to tell on these streets, you can not escale Lagos drama. I’ve been in buses where fights break out, not only between conductor, driver and passenger but also between other conductors, touts and louts. There was a day that I just kept encountering fights on my way home, I got down from buses and probably trekked half of the time, because that was how crazy it gets. Threats flying about and crowds gathering to watch the fights because honestly, we all need a little entertainment and distraction from the “shege” we are currently facing in the country. It’s not all bad though, I’ve encountered really nice and friendly conductors and louts popularly called “agbero”. They help old women and children to cross and can be protective over students coming from school so they’re not all bad.
A very particular memory that’s beautiful to me was one where I’d greeted a bus driver with a smile and he responded to my greeting with a smile as well and he went on to open the door of the front seat for me. I gave him my money and he said thank you and he gave me my change and I also said thank you. When I got down from the bus, he said: “Have a nice day!” and I said “you too!”. That interaction had a great effect on my day, I was very surprised because that wasn’t the first driver I had spoken to in that manner but he chose to reply me back with kindness. I had a smile on my face till I got to my destination and was determined to have a great day like this kind man had told me to. It was a stressful day and the universe tried to weaken my resolve but I was determined to have a great day even when different things were thrown at me through out that day. I’ve also had instances where random louts have given me compliments while I’m busy going about my day.
“You did not answer?”
“No, I did. I said thank you!”
I’ve had instances where some of them have even paid for my transport fare and my reply to all of these things have always been a smile and a “thank you!”, I think that’s important, you know, acknowledging the compliment. I’d admit some of them have gone too far, I was walking by and one of the louts gathered around whispered in my ear:
“Are you still a virgin?”
I mean, I was shocked and I kept walking but that interaction was on my mind till I got home and I eventually had a good laugh afterwards with my friends and just added it to the list of shenanigans that happens on Lagos roads.
Lagos is alive, you can feel it’s breath through the people living in the city, through random conversations in the bus about the state of the economy, collective outrage about a fellow motorist by all the occupants in the bus, people offering to help you out when you don’t know where you’re going, that person selling plantain chips or popcorn by the road side or in traffic. The people breathe life into the city. Lagos might be dysfunctional and filled with craziness but it is home and while it can be annoying and it can seem like the city is against you sometimes, you can feel a sense of “oneness” even in your frustration, a sense of camaraderie. We all know we’re all in this together at the end of the day.
Ray; Twenties Letter.