It was a Tuesday morning, very like other Tuesday mornings, as busy as a Monday with the usual Lagos traffic inching in every direction. Horns blaring, conductors shouting, passengers struggling to jump on buses and of course private car owners following the snail pace into town. By normal standards, a very typical Tuesday morning, but on my bus which I had struggled to enter like all other passengers it was a bit more dramatic.
I will start with the bus conductor. He was a hungry looking young man with eyes so red it looked like he had been smoking substances that morning. He was impatient with everybody that got on the bus and responded very rudely to passengers’ demands for their change. A typical Lagos bus conductor really. He repeatedly threatened not to give alighting passengers their change and acted like he was going to beat up those who challenged him. Many passengers left their money with him, he had scars all over his face and scattered across his neck, it was obvious he had been fighting for years, he had some fresh scars too, testament to the fact that he had fought the day before or maybe that morning, I wasn’t close enough to judge the wounds but he was a menacing young man who no soon-to-be-at-work passenger wanted to mess around with.
Then there was the passenger, a tiny slip of a man, with a gaunt starved look about him. He was dark, very dark, with eyes bulging like he had not eaten for days. He looked like a man who had suffered hardship, who had not eaten for days and who deserved our contributions to help make his life more bearable. Mr. Passenger started from Jakande roundabout to ask for his change, according to him, he was dropping at sand filled (l’oun l’oun) and he didn’t want to forget his change. He consistently reminded the conductor of his change. Every time the conductor threatened another passenger with not giving them a balance of their money, Mr. Passenger went “heeeeeeh, conductor no try me o!”
Then the rest of us on the bus, mostly babes all of us, with just one guy sitting in front. We were all polished looking babes, wearing cool clothes and fragrant perfumes, our hairs were the fake brazilian kinds of course, our nails painted to perfection. We weren’t going to fight a ragtag looking conductor for change, we were going to get down at our stops when we got there and we were going to tell the conductor that God would fight for us while hating him in our hearts and wishing we could beat him up.
The fight – Just before we got to the toll gate, conductor finally gave Mr. Passenger N90 instead of N100, according to Conductor, he was going to find N10 to give Passenger later. It was obvious to all of us on the bus that the Conductor had no plans of giving the man his N10, but it was only N10 we thought, Passenger could easily forgive it. We thought wrong! Passenger threw the N90 to the floor and insisted that he would get his N10 before coming down from the bus, as usual the conductor tried to threaten him! It was the wrong thing to do. Mr. Passenger obviously didn’t mind if he lived or died, all he wanted was to get his N10 and so the first bite landed. One moment the passenger was raging at the conductor next thing he had delivered this bite that would make any dog jealous.
The bus scattered, we the fresh Ladies scrambled ungraciously to the back seat not wanting any mistaken punches to land on us, the driver continued driving as if a normal conversation was going on, the conductor apparently was too shocked to react with the beating he had been promising all morning so he reacted with his mouth. His words earned him a second bite, a deeper bite that any carnivore would have recognized as one of theirs. We expected the conductor by then to start landing the punches he had been promising all morning! Already fresh wounds had come to join the older wounds, teeth marks swelling and skin just about to tear open, while we waited for the punches to start landing, the conductor meekly brought out N10 and added to the N90 which he quietly gave to Mr. Passenger. We were shocked! Such a tame response to a drastic attack!
The full fight never raged, conductor shut his mouth tight till Mr. Passenger dropped at sand filled, apparently the bites had shocked and drained the fight out of him. He had met a person much angrier at the world than himself. He had encountered someone who was willing to inflict injuries worth thousands of naira over a mere N10. He had met his match. All frustrations are high but some are definitely higher than others.
Moral of the story, pick your fights wisely some people have nothing else to live for and too many things to die for!