A few things signify the making of a man – puberty, memorizing Rudyard Kipling’s If, his first night in his university dorm room, his first tuxedo purchase, and buying his first car.
Buying your first car is as glorious as hearing a woman say “…you can come inside…” – the satisfaction after weeks of research, endless test drives, saving pennies, the obsession with the CD changer, the ‘should- I-get-a-personalized-licence-plate’ debate, etc.
Just as important as these dilemmas (if you have a driver) is the question ‘Will I sit in front or back seat of the car?
Sitting in ‘the owner’s corner’ is as synonymous with Nigeria as vajayjay clenching is with Japanese women. Only on our streets will you see a daddy rocking the back of his 1984 Peugeot station wagon with the same authority & swagger as the man riding his factory fitted, oshara, tear rubber, cha cha S500 Mercedes Benz in the next lane.
The truth is we Nigerians (in fact Africans) love to sit at the back of a car either the car is owned by us or our parent or AVIS Nigeria. We particularly love arriving at functions and getting someone open our doors whilst we take our time to put on our agbada or suit jacket delaying others on the drop-off queue.
If it weren’t for our city’s security concerns, I can assure you most car owners will have their drivers park and walk round the car every time to open their doors for them. But try that in the middle of Isale Eko and the area father might just spare your underwear as the only piece of clothing left on.
Even when we are away from home, Nigerians enjoy every opportunity to sit at the back of any car. I used to love ordering cabs in London because it was my only reminder of how life was back home even though I was quickly humbled whenever I took Addison Lee to Chinawhite, only to be outdone by an 18-year old Russian rolling out of his Aston Martin DB9 convertible metres away.
In my day-to-day commute around this metropolis, I always sit in front of the Bobsmobile and generally regardless of who’s car I’m in (expect someone is already seated in front) my ass resides in front. Why? Well because subconsciously I haven’t moved away from my 10-year old mentality that the back of a car belongs exclusively for mummy and daddy not for just anyone who can afford to pay their driver N25k a month.
But as I look left and right in today’s traffic, I see more and more toothpick legs who have worked less than an hour in their entire life spreading their Veet-waxed thighs all over the owner’s corners while a man old enough to be her father caresses her every wish with a “yes Ma!”, ferrying her to the Nail Place for an afternoon of hard work flicking through old editions of Hello Magazine. How can you explain that or perhaps how can you explain seeing someone sit at the back of a Kia Picanto. Really? Really??
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve heard some credible arguments that where you sit depends on you and also surprisingly, the driver – some drivers indeed do take the piss and might start leaning back making you look like the house boy in your own ride.
I can see the psychology behind the pretence especially in an environment where gatemen allow you entry into someone’s home without asking for your name purely because you’re sitting at the back of a ‘big’ jeep.
I myself have used this trick once before to gain access into the Awujale’s Palace. But I think I would feel more comfortable knowing majority of car owners chose to sit at the back purely based on comfort not because it’s the supposed thing to do.
On Tuesday Morning, as I got a lift to work in my brother’s car, I sat in the front passenger seat molesting my Blackberry cursor. Not realising we were in a queue trailing through one of Dolphin Estate’s police checkpoint, I heard a bang on the car. The ‘bros-in-black’ gestured that we park, of course, as we do in Lagos; we refused and continued driving on.
Realising we were not going to stop, the 5th policeman in a matter of centimetres pulled a cheap fear stunt by raising his shakabuula not realising that to shake this Ijebu Boy you have to come harder than that.
As we drove on, someone in the back said “….It’s because you are sitting in front, they think you don’t have any weight…”
So I got to thinking – is this nation full of ‘I’ll sit at the back so that I look like I carry “weight” or I’m sitting at the back because it’s more comfortable’?
I know I shouldn’t spend more than a second on what a bunch of N50 collectors think of my ‘bigz-ness’ or lack of it, but it got me thinking about why I’ve never desired to sit at the back of my car or any car in fact.
Perhaps it’s because a part of me thinks we’ve moved past the days of avoiding all conversation or contact with staff and more so, it’s just a bloody car at the end of the day – where you sit or what you drive can’t validate you the slightest and lastly, some of the men that I respect most in this town sit in the passenger’s side; a trend that I’m sure you too have noticed especially amongst G-wagon owners. So what exactly would my excuse be?
Anyway, let’s have some driving music as we’re on the topic. This week’s Friday Track is a new joint from a relatively new artist, New Orleans-based rapper Curren$y. His first radio-friendly single “Address” has done serious damaged to my stereo all week. You need to hear this!