We were heading to Yaba one sleepy morning. I was sitting at the back, close to the window, the window slightly slid closed so some thieving hand wont shoot in suddenly and grab my phone. This is Lagos, be kiaful.
The bus stopped at Maryland to pick up two more passengers; an elderly man and a young woman. She was beautiful in that quiet, dignified way, in that self-assured manner that doesn’t rely too much on facebeat and Instagram filters. She was the kind of woman wealthy men who want trophy wives go after. What was she doing in a danfo?
Well, this is Lagos, no be by fine, fresh girl.
The conductor started collecting fares. I handed him a 500 naira note, he grumbled about people who never enter with change. I ignored him and said, “fun mi change joor” roughly so he would know say no be only am dey crase. He said he was coming, but I repeated myself in an even rougher tone of voice. He handed me my change.
I collected my change and resumed pressing phone. In the early 2000’s, I never went anywhere without a book in my bag or hand. Now, even though I still carry books everywhere, I hardly open them. Open book when my battery is 80% and my data is about 6gb? I get exam?
I was still lost in thought when a bang on the side of the bus jerked me awake. At first, I thought it was an agbero harassing the conductor, but the bus was in the middle of the road and going fast. Then I looked ahead. It was the beautiful woman.
“That’s how you all are,” her voice reminded me of a grinding machine, “you keep an eye out for people to take advantage of. But you’ve got the wrong girl. You either take this 50 naira or inadvertently give me a free ride.”
The conductor was wearing a confused expression. He was used to everyday people. Nothing prepared him for this woman who didn’t belong here. He turned to the passengers and started explaining his case. But who send am?
Then something happened. The driver parked by the road and got out. Passengers started murmuring. Were we about to witness a physical assault?
The driver stood in front of the woman, anger burning in his eyes.
“Listen to me,” he said, “You will pay 100 naira and nothing less. I own this bus. I pay for fuel. I pay this conductor. I pay the agberos. I pay policemen. I pay LASTMA. I pay the Lagos state government. Everybody is trying to take money from me. I’ll be damned if I let some big-talking woman do the same. You’ll sit here and respect me. You’ll respect my conductor and you will respect yourself”
Everyone sat in stunned silence as the driver walked back to resume the journey. The woman did not say a single word till she got to her destination.
“She tink say na only she go school,” the conductor chuckled when she got down.