Recently, I was driving through Lagos Island on my way home from work. At one of the junctions, where there also happened to be a bus stop, two ladies signaled to me with their hands, I immediately thought they wanted to cross the road, so I grinded to a halt and with a smile on my face and motioned for them to cross. They, however, didn’t and then I noticed they were both looking directly at me with their lips moving. So I wound down my window and then one of them says to me “please we’re going to Iyana Oworo”. I am going to be very honest at this point and say that the alacrity with which I wiped the smile off my face and politely declined couldn’t be rivalled.
If you drive in Lagos, you cannot but notice how populated the bus stops are, how people scramble for buses when they pull up to the bus stops and how tightly packed the buses are. The result is there are always a few people who beckon to you for a lift. Some are lucky, they do get lifts for free; others may get a lift but still have to pay a fare, which is still better than spending hours at a bus stop or not getting a bus at all in times of fuel scarcity for instance.
I appreciate the struggle people face but I just cannot bring myself to admit a total stranger into my car; someone I do not know, have never met, someone who I know nothing of what they could do to me. I find it especially precarious because being behind the wheel (as I do not have a driver), I am in a vulnerable position in the event the person tries to harm me or attack me, because I still have to focus on keeping the car and its passengers safe.
How about if it isn’t a direct attack like a robbery or a killing? We’ve all heard some of those weird stories where someone gave someone a lift and the person turned into a snake on their seat or started manifesting some kind of spiritual manifestations. The scariest account I’ve heard so far was from one of the drivers in the office. He had given four people a lift, when they got to their destination which happened to be a crowded bus garage, three promptly got down while the fourth, seated in the back, stayed put. Without looking back, he reminded the passenger that they were at his stop and that it was time to come down, there was no answer. He then turned around to face the guy and found him with his head tilted back on the seat and eyes closed, thinking he was fast asleep, he nudges him but there was still no response. He came out of the car and grabbed the man’s arm to shake him awake and to his utter shock, the man was lifeless. The man had died in his back seat!
Now, picture the scene: a crowded bus stop, the sun is blazing hot, a dead man in your back seat with no explanation. Before he could even assimilate what was going on, a group had gathered around the car, accusing him of killing the man; some had gone to look for tires and petrol to burn him alive, not once did anyone ask him “what happened” yet his pleas fell on deaf ears. Very luckily for him one of the other three passengers that had walked off heard the commotion and came back to the car just as the first tire was thrown over his head. The man saved his life; he was screaming at the crowd at the top of his lungs, vehemently asserting the drivers innocence and insisting that he in fact was a good doer. The man was the one who physically removed the tire from his neck. The other two passengers had come back as well but chose to be spectators. By this time the police had become involved and the man agreed to go to the station with him to write a statement so that he could be set free.
His story sent a shiver down my spine. Imagine if the man had come back even a minute later or also chose to stand by and watch? The driver would have been set ablaze. It all the more strengthened my resolve about admitting strangers into my car.
Now, on almost a daily basis, I give work colleagues lifts, some to a convenient bus stop, some to their very door steps. I once saw another driver who I particularly like at the bus stop just outside the office, on asking where he was headed, it turned out he was going to the bus stop just before the turning to my house. I told him to jump in, he was so shocked he said “ah, no ma, I’ll wait for the bus” I jokingly told him that if he didn’t get in, I will have him queried the next day. I never saw him at that bus stop again; I think he was just too uncomfortable. I am very happy to give those kinds of lifts, where I know the person to an extent, no matter how platonic the relationship is, I’m just not comfortable enough to pick up a total stranger.
What about you?
Photo Credit: Dreamstime | Felix Mizioznikov