I’m a seasoned bus-hopper. Sad, but true. I don’t earn quite enough to enjoy a car, and even if i di, I just don’t have one.
I was sitting in a bus on Saturday evening, watching in amused disbelief as a middle-aged man and the conductor fought over a N50 change that was actually mine to have cos I was in the bus way before him. I got to thinking, the way I always do on buses, about how a country as big as Nigeria could have such a messed up transport system. And Lagos? Well, that’s another story, isn’t it? I’ve come to believe that if you can successfully commute in this city, you can commute ANYWHERE. Here’s the average day when I’m bussing back to Agbara for the weekend.
I usually travel light, maybe just a little bag to accompany my handbag, cos having to run after a moving bus with heavy load is too James Bond for me. I also wear little jewelry, especially on my ears because I have a morbid fear of someone pulling my earring through my already tender ear-holes. I NEVER travel in skirt for so many reasons, and wearing anything but comfy flats is an OYO situation. So, dressed for the occasion, I also strive to have the following:
1. A hanky, because unless it’s a very windy, cold day, sweating is a given. And coming into contact with another sweaty person is almost a pre-requisite for reaching your destination.
2. Change. Because as that song said, “If u no have change, u go marry una sef… “Usually, I attempt to have N200 notes or less. N1000 is just you attempting to piss both the conductor and yourself off.
3. Elbow grease.
Getting on a bus, especially in the night and early mornings, require a familiarity of the area, the kind of buses that come there and nature of the people already on the bus. For instance, small danfo buses never go to Obalende from Anthony. The few times I saw them, they were already filled up with mostly funny looking young guys. Stay away. I usually take off from VI, where I find a bus to CMS, but depending on something I’m not sure of, like maybe the angle of the sun as opposed to Mars or something, I could wait for years to find one. And when buses are scarce, like they are nowadays what with the whole fuel thing, it’s never pretty. In a nutshell, I strongly believe I’ve received permanent damage to my face from being elbowed on the cheek by a desperate bus-hopper. I’m usually more willing to stand and wait patiently for a reasonably empty bus than battle with ten people for 2 seats. Unless of course I’ve been there for 30 minutes, at which point I’m unabashedly VIOLENT.
CMS is something else. There’s always a straight bus to Iyana-Iba, which is like 3/4 of my journey, but it’s the bus I have a problem with. It’s all them bigger danfos that a man can stand in, but it’s not any wider, and we’re packed 5 on a row, sardine-style. Shoulder-to-shoulder, leg-to-leg, sweaty shirt-to-sweaty shirt… If you’re really having a bad day, the person next to you may have little children, or a serious case of body odour. A good seat in that kind of bus is one by the window, where you can stick your head out for fresh air when the bus isn’t moving. At the bus-stop though, I won’t suggest it, cos it’s like all the bus drivers EVER pee around there, and all you can think of is horrible air-borne diseases like tuberculosis. On a hot day, no, on a hot, really bad day, ur stuck between 2 people, ur sweating, THEY’re sweating, it stinks, and the driver is acting like a retard so you get to stew in your own filth for about 20 minutes. Once you DO get moving, however, you have to start collaborating and exercising your accounting skills so that everyone gets their change, including the wise-guy next to you that wants to pay with a N1000 note.
Sleeping in the bus is never advised for safety purposes but we’re all human, right? However, if you MUST nod, try to avoid sleeping on your sitting partner. On too many occasions I’ve had to twitch irritably or something of the same fashion because some person is nodding and falling on my shoulder… or lap…
This happens less often, but I tend to jam either perverts or stalkers. One particularly annoying night, some guy kept angling his hand towards my chest area. No matter how I shifted. Jerk. Stalkers are more annoying, especially if they’re heading for your stop.
Getting off the bus is another bonanza because Lagos bus-drivers really just never want to stop. Someone once gave me advice about it. He said, “get off running”. Truer words have never been said, thus the flat shoes and light luggage. Once I actually made the mistake of getting off a moving bus BACKWARDS. Luckily a good Samaritan was there to catch my fall.
You do that often enough, you’re almost willing to pay 200 bucks a litre, just to have a car. It’s one of those places where foreigners NEVER enter our public transport. It’s too much. Really.