I love Lagos!
It is the city of hustling, the city of high spirits, the no-nonsense city. I love the sights and sounds! There is so much to see, hear and absorb; the constant noise, the shrewd traders, the festive parties, the carnivals, the sunny beaches, the bridges, the colourful markets, the food, the drinks, the music and the millions of people of different tribes and nationalities. Even when you breathe, you inhale Lagos. The aroma of roasting corn , fish & plantain, the bubbling soups from the bukas, the spices from sizzling suya, the stench of the stagnant gutters and the choking fumes from the “Okadas” and “Danfos”.
For a stranger, the eccentrics of Lagos might be overwhelming but for the average Lagosian, it’s all part of the daily experience that we miss when we are away. If there’s anything I hate about Lagos, it is the traffic! I hate Lagos traffic. The crazy danfo drivers, the suicidal okadas, the street vendors, the floods, the portholes and even the over-zealous traffic management officials all add up to create a frustrating scenario in our beloved city. To survive in Lagos, we have all had to learn to cope with the traffic and create our own alternatives such as the following:
Ditch Your Car
As inconvenient as this may sound, it is sometimes a life-saver. Remember that you cannot leave your car in the middle of the road no matter how bad the traffic is; but if push comes to shove you can disregard your Lagos big girl status, take off your stilettos, jump out of the taxi (or danfo) and start walking to you destination. You can also use the BRT/LAGBUS buses which have their own dedicated lanes and are likely to get you to your destination faster. Also consider the Lagos Ferry service if there’s any along your route. I hear they are quite safe and efficient
You may want to deny this but you are part of the cause of the problem. Yes, you! You drive to your office; your husband drives to his own office in the same direction, your neighbours too. Why not all go in the same vehicle? You can take turns driving and paying for petrol if you want. This way you can socialize on the go and save loads of petrol and road space.
Monitor Traffic on Social Media
These days a couple of Twitter handles give authentic traffic updates from time to time. With these updates you are able to plan your journey before you set out. Even radio stations give regular traffic reports. If you use a Blackberry, you can also give your friends and colleagues updates via BBM. However, remember to include the date and time so that old messages are not recycled.
Keep Your Vehicle in Shape
A broken-down vehicle could cause a more serious traffic jam than you can imagine. Always check your tyres, fan belt, engine oil and radiator before you take your car out. For cars older than a year, it is essential to scan the engine and electrical parts for impending but preventable faults. These days auto-mobile diagnostic services are more affordable and available, so we have no excuse. Some GSM network providers also offer car-troubleshooting SMS services that could come in handy. Also consider that your car may be towed away by LASTMA if it breaks down on a major road and you might have to pay to get it back. Double wahala!
Have a Snack Handy
It pays to have a snack and a little drink (I didn’t say alcohol o) in your handbag or man-bag or whatever you carry your stuff in. Although, I’ve realized that street hawkers tend to spring up wherever and whenever traffic congestion is heavy. Most times, they have bottled water, canned drinks, biscuits, sausage rolls, plantain chips, fruits, sweets and chewing gum. I am sure you can survive on one or more of these. Unfortunately for you Aje-butters, there’s no Chinese cuisine in traffic yet, unless you like those tasteless corn chips thingies.
Radio, Music or Audiobooks
It’s a good idea to occupy your mind with something positive while in traffic. This way the time spent in traffic is not totally wasted and you don’t feel so much mental stress. Good music will soothe you and you can learn from radio shows or audiobooks. You may want to watch TV/DVD if you are lucky to have one in the car, but I personally find this distracting.
Safety is key. Please try to keep you windows up, especially at night. It is very easy to be robbed of your phones, cash and jewelry in traffic. Even if your air-conditioning does not work, wind up and leave just a little crack such that hands or weapons cannot fit in. It is better to sweat for some minutes (sometimes hours) than to lose your Effizy phone and bling, hard-earned money or even your life. Plus, keep your valuables out of view.
Road rage won’t help you. Aggressive driving will more often than not, lead to scratches and dents or worse accidents, then you waste all the time you were trying to save. Just breathe in and breathe out. Patience is very necessary.
Avoid The Rush-Hour
This is quite difficult especially when you are not self-employed. Most offices resume at 8am. God help you, if you do the daily Mainland-Island runs like me. Some people also intentionally stay back at work until ungodly hours when the traffic has subsided. I don’t advice night-crawling on a daily basis, though. It is not safe especially with all the recent news about kidnapping.
Traffic congestion is characteristic of most large cities, the Lagos Mega-City being no exception. However, Lagos traffic has its peculiarities. Always leave a reasonable time gap for your journeys. Lagos traffic (some call it go-slow) and punctuality hardly appear in the same sentence. It is wise to obey traffic rules in Lagos city as obedience will save you a lot of explanation, time and money. It will also save you trips to the psychiatric hospital!
Thank me later.
Photo Credit: 123rf.com