I was out all night some days back. I work in a nightclub on the island as an entertainment promoter. I left the island for home around 8am and boy, I was darned tired and feeling lethargic. I boarded a bus and I slept halfway through the journey, drooling on people’s shoulders while using them as pillows as well (Yeah. I’m good at multitasking). After sometime the cross-eyed bus conductor woke me up harshly to request for money.
“Egbon, Owo da?”
I was confused for a moment because he wasn’t looking at me directly. How dare he? I mean, is he talking to me?
I looked at him contemptibly and then reluctantly handed him N500 note. He returned the (contemptible) look — with his eyes not particularly focused on me. Disdain colonized his scarred face so much that I lost the eye battle — and had to look away.
“Se mo so pe kosi change ki e to wole”
“How much is the fare?” I asked.
“Ki ni ki n wa se? Collect money from other people first now” I commanded.
He gave no response and he went on about his business, arguing with passengers and dropping snide remarks here and there like a rapper thirsty for a rap battle. Some passengers engaged him while others simply ignored.
“I no blame you. You be conductor so I no fit dey waste spit hon top your matter” a middle aged man wearing a TM shirt with a rather ubiquitous collar said in an offensive manner. His H factor more prevalent than his collar.
“Na me say make you never buy car. I tell you say if you no get change make you no enter you dey do mos’gbon”
“God go punish you for there” The collar(e)d man responded immediately.
There was a brief exchange of words between them both.
Note: Sometimes I think the bus fare isn’t exclusively for the transportation but also for the amusement.
“CMS?” The conductor screamed at the top of his voice.
“O wa o. Driver please wait o, I get load for back” a light skinned woman endowed with a large behind vocalized as she made an attempt to alight.
Hmm. Load for back indeed.
“Please excuse o. I wan come down”
“Constain, Ojuelegba” The conductor hustled about the bus stop for passengers.
Random note: Quite ironic how conductors in Lagos do everything but conduct the passengers and affairs in the bus.
Fortunately, we met a traffic and I asked the conductor to bring the money so that I could get change. (That’s what you get for entering buses in Lagos: Having to do the conductor’s job for him because he forewarned you before you entered the bus that there’s no change)
I was starving anyway. I resolved to do the normal traffic ritual: Get Gala and any accompanying drink.
I was sitting by the window side so I called one of the several boys hawking Gala and drinks. With alacrity a brisk looking boy with stout legs ran toward me, supporting the carton on his head with his right hand. The shirt he wore was torn around the armpit area. This is one Tyson Gay with a misplacement of career, nationality, I thought. He was accompanied by another boy selling drinks.
“Give me gala”
“….and you give me Sprite”
As they both tried to get me what I requested for, the traffic situation improved and the bus driver moved the vehicle a bit forward. The boys hurried after the bus.
“Abeg wait o. Make these boys collect their money”
They caught up with the bus quickly. A plus sized woman sitting next to me asked for Gala and Fanta.
“Bring change now fast now N350. Una go dey settle the money between una later” I urged them.
The boy selling Gala shot me a funny look. You know that ‘Shay you dey whine me’ look your best friend gives you when he shows you a picture of his new girlfriend and you’re like “This babe fine o. I go like give am”
Yeah. Exactly that look.
“Sir, Gala na N70 and Sprite na N120"
Wow. N150 was no longer enough to do the trick. Recession has hit and it has hit deep. The woman who initially asked for Gala exclaimed and returned her money into her purse. I retrieved my money as well, returned the Gala and Sprite. Then I held the N500 in my hand — and shook my head dramatically while staring intently at the conductor.
“I don try”
I spent the rest of the journey pondering on how the standard exchange for the life saving ticket had been changed.
We are experiencing change, indeed.