The bus jerked to a halt. I was taken unawares and nearly hit my head on the dashboard. The driver stretched out his right hand to hold me back and rested his elbow against my breast. He brushed against it, before returning his hand to clench the gear. I felt nauseous and overwhelmed. I could tell that his action was intentional, and ordinarily, I would not have let that slide without either throwing tantrums or drawing other people’s attention to the pervert. But clearly, I had no convincing story to put forth. He was the saint; the soldier who rescued a lady from an impending injury. I swallowed the saliva that clogged my throat in those few seconds. The driver, whom the conductor called Showman, smiled mischievously and turned to scream at the tout standing beside the door of the bus. “This is Lagos and its danfo life”, my cousin said in between loud squeaky laughter. That was the only response she gave me after I relayed the incident to her later that night.
When you have lived most of your life in the calmness and serenity that Enugu offers, arriving Lagos comes with rude shocks. The swarm of heads at Oshodi and the endless traffic of the Third Mainland Bridge startled me and made me wonder if travelling all the way for a two-month training was a good idea. The drivers always appeared to be either angry or up to some mischief. The bus conductors shouted as they spoke, even if you were seated inches away from them. The moment co-passengers saw you lift your fare from your purse, they reached for your hand like they had a right to it. It was never an affront. This rush to seize a lower denomination note before it got to the bus conductor was simply one of the survival tips on a danfo. For it was only a novice that did not know that the bus conductors always claimed inability to return a passenger’s balance immediately.
My visit to the spa on Valentine’s Day left therapeutic effects on me, until I got on a danfo on my way home. Unfortunately, the only spot left for me-the last passenger on the trip-was a stool forced into the space that should have been the aisle of the bus. Without a backrest and stuck in traffic for more than three hours, I got home with body pains. The pains were more intense than before I received the deep-tissue massage from the masseuse, who repeatedly called me by a Yoruba name. The malls were more beautiful than those in Enugu and there were movies showing in the cinemas. Yet, none of these movies could be compared to the action that took place on the roads, at the motor parks, and inside the buses that carried me to destinations within Nigeria’s most populated state.
Sometimes, it was laughter. Although, it was usually at the expense of another passenger. Lagos is full of people craving for humour in the midst of the city’s hustle and bustle. And if it comes along in the confines of the rickety buses, as they meandered their way through busy routes, why not? A lady’s wig could fall off as she pushed herself into the bus, and the entire trip would be filled with remarks of how artificial Lagos girls are. The conversation could veer off into ridiculing people who leave their houses without having a bath or cleaning their teeth and all these would be in response to someone who either provoked a fellow passenger or tried to defend another.
Every morning, we left the comfort of our beds. We hurried through streets, jumping across gutters and pools of muddy water. We scampered past fellow pedestrians and jostled each other into the stuffy buses. We all held close to our aspirations and patted our disappointments with hopes that the reason for coming to Lagos would yield fruits. The yellow buses brought with each day, weird and tiring experiences. But in the eyes of co-passengers, I saw the strength to get over daily adversity quickly and pursue ambitions without giving up.
*image credit: Bernard Kalu (@kabenny on Instagram)