I complain about Lagos every day. That’s not figurative. When I don’t leave my house, frustration manifests as a service provider, or some ineptitude saunters through the door in the form of a domestic worker. And when I do leave, every journey is a reason to whine. I promise myself I won’t, but the sheer amount of craziness eventually gets me seething. You can’t just spectate. Lagos will force you to either be a victim, a perpetrator or both. This one time, I was a victim.
I live in Yaba and work in Ikeja. The shorter route to the office is through Ikorodu road, but the longer route through the Third Mainland Bridge can sometimes be faster or more enjoyable. This was one of those days I decided to match my car and pass the bridge, but I should probably have checked the traffic before leaving because unfortunately there was some hold up on Ikorodu road, around Ojota.
As I settled into the traffic, I noticed a staple “madman” (I’ve read that this is frequently schizophrenia) weaving through the cars, eating from a disposable plate. Eventually, the traffic eased up a little, and as I drove past him I couldn’t help but notice that the disposable plate he was “eating” from was empty. If you’ve spent enough time in Lagos, you know that this is funny but not too shocking. So I chuckled internally and moved on, or so I thought.
If there’s anything I’ll credit Lagos for, it’s that it can be very exciting. This excitement may come at the detriment of your mental health, but there’s not a dull moment. As I drove past our protagonist, he seemed to drop his empty plate of food and attempt to make contact with my car—almost like he was trying to collide with it. I didn’t pay any mind to it. In fact, I was amused to watch him play it out. But then I caught up with the traffic and looked in my side mirror only to see him pick up a stone and start sprinting for my car.
“Is fighting a madman on the road great optics?”
“What if he goes for the windshield?”
“If he breaks the windshield, what can I even do to him? He’s already crazy.”
“My side mirror had cost a lot to fix earlier, wouldn’t the windshield be worse?”
“Even if insurance pays, how long will it take to ship a proper windshield?”
“What if he hits and runs, do I come down to chase him?”
The 10 or so seconds it took for the man to sprint to my car felt like days. I was scared shitless contemplating questions. I quickly decided to be proactive, so I took out a 500 naira note and rolled down my window, attempting to guide him to come to me first before going with the stone option. It worked!
You’re lucky that I understand that you’re hungry. Don’t ever try this with anyone again!
As he moved beside my door, he started wailing, dramatically showing me the—still empty—plate and complaining that I toppled his breakfast! By this time, the other commuters on the road were tuned in to our show, eager to see how this contest between the mad man and the rich man would pan out.
With all the courage I could muster I scolded the man, asking him questions like what he planned to do with the stone. He started playing the abashed part, and I completed the play by saying “You’re lucky that I understand that you’re hungry. Don’t ever try this with anyone again!”. Honestly, what I wanted to say was “Thank you for being reasonable”.
I gave him the money and he left me alone, and as I watched people in their cars refocus on the road seemingly disappointed that the match ended so prematurely, I acquainted with the results. This was a knockout, and evidently, I did not win.