Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Commuting in Lagos

The Lenovo T61 laptop I ordered over a month ago just came in and I'm loving it.

I had to order one with low specifications so I could add the cannibalised parts of my old laptop to beef it up. No sense in condemning the laptop since it was only the motherboard that was damaged.

My T61 now has 3GB RAM with a 2.5GHz processor. Woah!

I took Monday last week off work so I could spend one day extra in Lagos for pre-wedding activities, specifically with the church we were getting married in. Spent a few hours with the church administrative staff on the requirements we had to meet et al and was done at about 4pm.

After waiting a while for a non-existent taxi cab to show up, I decided to walk to the Tafawa Balewa Square (TBS) in Onikan, aka Race Course to see if my luck would be better. Upon getting there, I saw the newly introduced Bus Rapid transit (BRT). Apparently, TBS is a major stop for these buses.

I took this taxi-cab picture later in the day.

Note the "danfo" buses in the background with the same ubiquitious yellow with black stripes colour.

On the spot, I decided to get on one of these buses and have fun.

Before I even got to the bustop, I was accosted by different people selling tickets like the lady in this picture. New job for people, I thought. This was a good start.

I found out what bus route I needed to use before I get on a bus to another state (apparently, the red buses go to straight to Oworonshoki, and the blue ones go to Mile 12 while stopping at certain bus-stops along the Ikorodu road axis)

So, the nearest bustop to my destination - Surulere, was the "Barracks" stop. Ticket cost: N50 (40 cents). I promptly paid, picked up the ticket and walked over to the bus stop.

Check out the queue!

There were at least 200 people in front of me!
I was beginning to have second thoughts about getting on this bus. This was going to take a long time.

Anyways, I made up my mind I was going to get on that bus whatever it took.
So, I joined the looong snaking line. Everything kinda looked organised at that moment.

See that FAN ice-cream cart on that picture to the right, up there? After waiting for about 20 minutes in the hot Lagos sun, I told the person behind me on the queue "I dey come oh" and strolled over and got me a "FAN ICE" yoghourt. Didn't taste like the one I used to love but it helped cool me down.

Got back on the line and joined in the disjointed banter and arguments of my fellow "line mates".

A molue (yes, they are becoming rarer in Lagos these days) shudders by, spewing toxic fumes into the queue. Everyone, or at least, almost everyone, grabs his/her nose to block it out.

I noticed that this sign was on each of the BRT buses.

NO Hawking
NO Preaching
NO Advertising

If you ever had any experience with "Molues", you'd remember the hilarious craziness that accompanies each ride.

Someone would stand up and start with the sentence "Praise the LORD!" and then go on to regale the captivated passengers with jokes, then try to sell something and probably end with a song of praise in which people would join in.

Back to the QUEUE.
While the line was slowly crawling forward (I'd say 1 step forward every 5 minutes), we argued about the probability that our president - "Yardy" was still alive, talked about politics in the US (Obama of course - after we saw this car parked across the road with the OBAMA sticker) and what business it was for Nigerians to be concerned about it, compared fake Chinese products to Aba-made products, cursed and insulted the useless buses and people who were trying to jump the queue. Don't forget the government and other people who were "eating" our money, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.
We tried calling the number on the back of the buses to alert them that there were few buses getting to the stop. No joy. But at least we got a recorded message asking us to leave a message.
I couldn't be bothered to.

Then, these unfortunate ladies stroll over and try to "psych" this guy behind me to get on the line in front of him. They were unprepared for the assault on them from the people around.
"C'mon will you go to the back!", "You want to jump queue abi?", "See this small children oh, you want to enter in front of me, una don chop liver oh. If I slap you eh!", "Omo we're, tin gba fo eh l'eti eh!", "Ashawo, comot for there jare!"

But these ladies were not bothered oh, they just moved on to the front and somehow wrangled their way into the line.

After one hour with little progress, we, the people began to get agitated.
We sadly noted that people were "shunting" the line in front and getting on the bus by hook or crook. Kudos to the people on the line as by and large, they maintained their cool.

As I got closer to the front, it began to look like pandemonium. People shouting, shoving, cursing and even fighting. Check these guys out.
I wonder what the issue was.
"You must pay me my money OH!" I heard one of them say. Not sure what kind of "wahala" was going on.

This guy barely got into the bus before the door closed. Unfortunately for him, his bag remained outside the bus.

Still, the line stretched on.....

Eventually, after roughly 2 and a half hours, I finally got on the bus.
The bus was clean, neat and looked sharply different from the pandemonium outside.
The guy in the green check shirt was able to jump the queue and get into the bus.

Sharply and promptly, other passengers shoved him off. He did not make the ride.

The bus moved on.
I got to my bustop and shouted "Oh wah oh!". Reminiscent of my "danfo/molue" days.
Nobody answered me. The bus was still moving on. I repeated myself a bit more desperately, "Oh wah oh!!"
Someone then replied "Press the buzzer!".
Press the buzzer "ke"?
"Wey the buzzer dey na?"
"Bros, you never enter BRT before? Pull the rope on top ya head!"

I pulled it, heard a ring and the bus came to stop, missing my stop by only about 10 feet.
It was an interesting experience for me.
I'm not sure I'd do it again though.
What if it rained while we were on the line?

P.S. Thanks to NoLimit and Dee! for their awards
I really appreciate their thoughts.
Posted by at 12:20 pm |  
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