So I get in a taxi (at the Immigrations office in Ikoyi) bound for the office in Victoria Island. The taxi man proposed N1,500 as the charge. I countered with N1,000. Back and forth and he finally asked me to get in but hoped I would “add” something.

Driving a Taxi must be a lonely job to a large extent. Between clients, you are probably just driving around. Then people come into your live for brief periods of time, most will not leave any last impressions, but some will (including the guy that pulls a stickup on you and robs you of your day’s takings). So generally, taxi drivers are ready to talk. I am usually ready to listen – especially if you don’t expect more from me than the brief responses that indicates I don’t mind you going on or that I am at least listening.

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Taxi driver: “You see. It’s the fuel scarcity. If you check in the back of my cab, you will see several jerrycans there. The queues in the petrol stations are horrendous. In addition, they are hoarding the fuel.”

(I looked in the back and only saw a tiny 4-liter oil can so I said jokingly, “I don’t see any jerrycans here.”

“I just dropped them off because I needed to carry some heavy stuff for a client.”

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“My wife just delivered twins after many years of trying. My family had advised me to send her away. If not that we already had one child from several years before it would have been difficult. But I stuck with her. What’s the alternative? Get a new wife? Besides, you can’t trust most of these young ladies of nowadays. They are prostituting themselves all over the place.”

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“You see in fact I am fed up. This taxi is not even mine. Though I hope God will bless me this year and I will be able to buy my own. It’s on lease. I came all the way from Sango this morning to pick it up. See (holding up a ticket), this is a railway ticket in my hand. Sometimes, when I drop a client, by the time I drive round and get another one, my fuel is almost gone. If you don’t want to suffer, make sure you are out of this area before 4:30PM.

The petrol stations have fuel. They are just hoarding it. In some stations, they took delivery of 3 huge tanker-load of fuel about two to three weeks ago. We saw them. They locked it up claiming that the federal government wants to hike up the price. What’s their concern with that? This is fuel they took delivery of several weeks ago at the current price!”

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“When you are driving, be careful of these Maruwa (commercial tricycles), they can get one in trouble. They behave like chickens on the road.

If you are still in this neighborhood by 4:00PM,  you will know that Jesus is not a Nigerian (referring to the traffic-jam). My body is aching all over. See how dirty I am all over from the oil. But I give thanks to God all the same.

Yesterday when I leased this car. I was fortunate enough to repent quickly (“Olorun lo je kin tete ronu pi wada”). I just parked it. For over an hour and a half, not even one client!

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“When they reopen this station (we were passing by the NNPC station under renovation) , it will be very fine. I suspect someone else must have bought it over. I heard they have taken it back from the previous owner. That they owe a lot of money (“won je iya-laya gbese”). But I am sure they have sold it to one of the cabal.”

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“Beans is expensive in my area (I suspect the reference is to the Yoruba association of beans with twins). It’s N200 per Derica (measuring can). I was fortunate last week. While waiting to pick up clients, I went with a friend and found these Hausa traders. They are more reasonable. We got the beans at N160 per Derica.”

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The traffic in V/I was already bad. At the Sanusi Fafunwa junction, I asked him to pull over. I said I would walk through Sanusi Fafunwa to Karimu Kotun street. He asked if that wasn’t too long a walk but was quite grateful when I insisted. I brought out everything in my pocket (N1,205). Handed over N1,200 for which he was even more grateful.

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He needed to find water to top up his radiator. We parted ways at that point.

Random strangers

Random strangers

I know I will likely get some interesting comments on this post (or maybe not – people may just read it and think I must be nuts but not actually comment on the post 🙂
For some reason, on my trips back to Lagos from Ibadan (and at least once from Lagos to Ibadan), I have given completely random strangers lifts all the way to Lagos.
Several months ago, I had pulled into a petrol station just on the outskirts of Lagos to have the air in my tyres gauged when a fellow approached me for a lift to Ibadan. I was not so sure, but when he added that he had one of this “staff”who would be going along as well, I just completely refused. But he didn’t give up immediately, so by the time all the tyres were checked, I relented and asked him to get in. I found out he was a tanker driver for the petrol station and was on his way home (Ibadan) for the weekend. I dropped them off somewhere before we got to Iwo road (I would have taken the “Challenge” road, but I thought if I had done them a good turn already and it was getting a little late, I decided I might as well see things through – I practically dropped them at the bus stop next to their houses – but I ended up in some traffic due to the detour. Just short of their stop, the gentleman asked for for the cost and I said no, not to bother. He said some prayers as they got down and thanked me profusely. He said I should continue doing good deeds, etc.

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A couple of trips back, I had pulled into one of the last petrol stations just before leaving Ibadan (just shy of the old tollgates) to top up my gas tank when a guy and then a couple of people tentatively approached me to see if I could get them to Lagos (usually they expect to pay – but lower than what a typical commercial vehicle would charge I think). I at first flatly refused, glanced back at the jumble on the back seat and thought of the trouble I would have to go to get all that stuff out of the way. Another person, a little scruffy looking approached as well – when the first two offered to show me their ID cards, he said he was just an humble (Islamic) alfa which no form of identification. I turned him down as well. But by the time my tank was full, I was having second thoughts. So I indicated to the first couple (colleagues selling one of these health products that also involve getting other people to retail the stuff) to follow while I drove a little away from the pump. I got down and had to shove everything into the back of the vehicle. I also had to erect the 3rd row seat. The alfa had returned back to the side of the road to keep trying his luck with other passing cars. While arranging my stuff about 3 others also came up to ask if it was possible they get a lift to Lagos. Since it looked like I was committed at that point, I agreed as well. Then I thought of the alfa and what kind of Christian would I be if I didn’t take him while I took a few other people that showed up after him. So I beckoned to him as well. By the time we got back on the road, I believe I had 6 complete strangers packed into the vehicle with me.

We made it safely to Lagos, and when we were almost in Lagos, I think it was the Alfa that asked about the cost and I indicated they didn’t have to pay, the alfa led all the others in a comprehensive prayer for me with all the others saying Amen at suitable points. He was full of praise as to how I helped complete strangers and did not ask for any money. After the prayers, he hinted at the fact that he was still going to Obasanjo Farms and had spent all the money he had getting from his village to Ibadan. I think that was pushing a little too far, so I purposefully didn’t get involved in that – especially as he didn’t ask me directly for money – he just put it out there.

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Just this past weekend, I was returning from Ibadan to Lagos, when I pulled into the same Petrol station. I noticed a reasonably dressed gentleman with a bag pack trying to get a lift at the side of the road. When I was done filling my tank, I noticed he was still there so I pulled up as I drove past him and indicated he get in, a second fellow that was more or less behind him came up as well and asked if he could get a lift as well. I joked that his face looked hard, but told him to get in as well. The fellow at the back soon fell asleep, but the other fellow in front was awake all through. We discussed some of the antics of the other drivers on the road and some topics on the radio as we went along. The fellow in the back asked to be let out at 7UP and when I pulled over he asked what was the cost, and I said no – you could see the surprise on his face but he thanked me as I pulled back out into the traffic. The other fellow got out around Oworonsoki.

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I guess I could ask for money, but I won’t for several reasons: (not looking down on them, but) If they were comfortable enough, they would be driving as well and not trying to hitch a ride; whether or not I offer them a lift, I was going to Lagos (or Ibadan) anyway; and finally, it was an opportunity to help people without expecting anything back. Hopefully, some of the goodwill will be extended to others along the chain of life.

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I won’t necessarily make a habit of it, but I can’t promise not to do it again. In fact, I am likely to – the way I see it, if I do pick up someone that” “wants” the car, I would just let them have it with no fuss – there are more important things in life than holding on to a car that’s at least 7 years old! The only thing I probably won’t do is stop along the road under any condition (if a passenger is pressed, he/she better hold it in until the next town or village). Unless a gun or cutlass is involved, in which case I revert to letting go of the car with no fuss!

Give me the cap

Give me the cap

Day 1: So today, I was my aunt’s chauffeur (excluding the cap :-).

I woke up early to take her to church (St. Johns) in Ikoyi. The church normally has 3 services: a 7am Holy Communion service; an 8am English service and a 10am traditional service in Ibo Language. We usually attend the 8am service (I have been accused rightly by the Vicar’s wife that they only see me when my aunt is in town). After the service, we branched at a petrol station in Ikoyi where there was almost no queue and filled up my tank. Home to breakfast. My uncle and an older cousin showed up later.

My aunt had told me the day before that I was going to take her to a few places and the plan was to leave shortly after breakfast, but that was delayed until my uncle and aunt left.

Soon we were Surulere-bound. We went to the home of a retired couple who were close friends of my aunt. Spent about 30 minutes there and we were offered dinner. But since we still had a second place to touch briefly, it was agreed we should go and come back afterwards for the dinner and a proper visit.

We went to the home of another friend of my aunt who was the widow of some very important figure. I noticed from the burst of the husband in front of the entrance to the house that he has been dead for a very long time. The wife was also an “achiever” in her own right I believe. I dozed a little while my aunt and her friend (and her friend’s daughter caught up on things). I suspect it may have been a combination of the slightly warm room and the fact that I didn’t quite get enough sleep the night before.

After a suitable time, we returned to the first couple’s house. We were invited to the dining room shortly after we arrived. The dinner was quite good – rice, stew, chicken, vegetable, fried fish and fried plantain. Followed by a couple glasses of a very good red wine (as if I know what a sub par one tastes like). The conversation was even more interesting. Some people would probably find it a little uncomfortable. But I have for quite a while realized and accepted the fact that sooner or later (hopefully) we all have to leave this world. A lot of the conversation was about friends who have passed on, and in some cases the manner of their passing (some rather abrupt). I don’t really mind people talking round about me (meaning I don’t contribute much to the conversation – though in this case, there was nothing for me to contribute – the subjects of the discussion were all old enough to be my grandparents). I have of course been told by someone (I care about a lot) that part of the problem is that I don’t talk. If only the person knew (the one million things I would rather have said but would probably not have been welcomed!).

But still it is true that I enjoy the flow and ebb of conversation going on around me. If the company I am in don’t mind, I like being a spectator just absorbing details of how people of all nature live their lives.

The reminiscing went way back to several decades and some possible miracles in certain people’s lives. A few scandals were covered as well.

Well after dinner, we retired back to the sitting room and the conversation continued. My aunt whipped out her iPad to show her friends pictures of the extended family. I must say I can count people from a wide variety of countries among my relations now (think New Zealand, USA, UK, etc.). Though one must realize that the more the family disperses round the world, the greater the possibility that one may walk past a relatively close family member in some distant land and not even know it.

Back home at about 9:30PM. Sitting in front of the TV watching DSTV channel 255 (CI) while typing this out. Which reminds me of the topic of the sermon in church this morning which was on the 3 servants with the talents. So as the Chaplain said, if you don’t exercise your talent, you will lose it. So if I pretend I can write, then I must go on writing so as not only improve the talent but keep it.

So that is why I am putting this piece up!

Day 2: Got in the car with my aunt and a visiting family member all ready to go and the car refused to start. Rain started drizzling. Opened the bonnet and pretended to know what I was doing. Checked the oil. Radiator had enough water. Hmm. Tried a couple more times to start the car but no luck. Had to take the smaller Skoda. I got into the driver’s seat and it felt as if I was sitting on the floor. I am not short but I still almost had to crane my neck to see properly out the front windshield! The break felt like there were gremlins under it resisting my attempts to push it down – the net effect was that the car was bucking like a bronco. I took it slow.

Visited another elderly friend who had just lost her younger sister a couple of months ago. I sat quietly on the sofa writing a story on the BB and “fighting” sleep every once in a while. Such visits and the natural conversations that result brings home to one the reality of life. I sat in the lovely sitting room of a house which was about 43 years old and looking like something from one of those home décor magazines out of some Western country. There were lots of pictures of the family including some of the grown of kids and their children. I couldn’t help but compare some of the middle-age pictures of the host with her current look – age is a strange thing. We are vibrant and all rearing to go one minute, and the next (in reality several years) we can barely muster the strength to get up.

I wouldn’t say being in such situations help me forget my own (suddenly mundane) problems, but it helps me put them in the correct perspective for all of 30 minutes. Unfortunately, once I am out of the particular “setting”, my own issues resume their central position in my mind.

Had a close shave on the way back. Just about getting off the bridge (incoming from Ikorodu to Apongbon), going relatively slowly, and thinking about the same one thing that’s been on my mind in recent months when suddenly (as the driving guides would put it) a harzadous situation started developing in slow-motion right in front of my eyes. The car to my right suddenly jumped ahead “brushing” me on the passenger’s side, got in front of me; skidded towards the central divide while the driver fought to control it; then back towards the center of the road before finally stopping. Meanwhile I had to step on the brakes to stop from running into him from behind. I pulled level, wound down the passenger’s side window while the fellow actually got out of his car. I pointed out that he ran into us. He said it wasn’t his fault, didn’t I see the bus that got in front of him from the other side. I said the bus (which I didn’t actually notice but I believe he was telling the truth – I think he turned towards us in trying to avoid colliding with the bus)  did not run into us – it was he that did. I didn’t get down but suspected the damage should be minor – due to my relatively slow speed, stopping in time and the very slight bump I felt when he made contact with our car. I wasn’t sure of his vehicle though – it’s possible his front axle may have been broken. My aunt said he should apologize and after that we went on our way. Fortunately, the headlights weren’t broken, just a little dent and several deep scratches in the paint work. The bumper may have separated slightly on the right from the body as well.

I was reading a Christian book this morning and some section talks about not living in the past. Asking forgiveness if possible from whomever one has wronged, then also asking God for forgiveness. And finally moving on – I think some issues are easier to move on from than others. The ones that fall under “what might have been” are probably the most difficult.

On a lighter note. Hmm. Can’t think of anything that qualifies. But smile anyway; I think I passed the all-time low point (hopefully) some weeks ago. The future is bright (we hope and believe). And if you meet someone who is having a not so good day, if there is anything you can do to help – including a kind word or just listening to the person “vent” or unload his/her mind, please do.

Thank you for reading.