Pangolo Junction
Life, arguments, and kunu... with Max, Nat and Zack

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Henpecked husbands, bus breakdowns and manic motorcyclists

Good day once more. You know the time, place and event... so without further ado, let us observe our three friends... or rather I should say, our two friends...

(Max and Nat are sitting at a table in silence in the Junction. Every now and then, one of them either looks towards the door or looks at their watch.)

Nat: He said he'd be here by now. It's not like him to be late.

Max: Perhaps his wife has become fed up of his evenings out and has decided to lay down the law.

Nat: What are you talking about? How can someone like Lizzy order someone like Zack about? The very idea is just ludicrous!

Max: That's what you think. But then again, you don't know the full story. (Gives Nat a conspiratorial look.)

Nat: What story? Come on - you're talking like I don't know Zack and Lizzy. You know I've visited them on several occasions, and Zack has always firmly been in charge!

Max: Ah, but they've always known when exactly you're coming and have always had time to prepare the drama performance of strong man and dutiful wife for you. However, I once happened to stop by when Zack wasn't expecting me, and I was let in by Zack's son, Junior. While I was sitting in the living room waiting for Zack to come down, I heard some very interesting conversation. (Smiles evilly.)

Nat: What did you hear?

Max: I heard Lizzy say "Max, you have not polished my toenails to my satisfaction". I was stunned to hear that – but I was even more astonished to hear Zack reply. He was stammering and stuttering all over the place saying (imitates Zack's voice) "S-s-s-sorry my dear, I'm s-s-s-so sorry... p-p-p-please let me have another attempt... please don't be angry with me, I beg..." (He bursts out laughing, and in between gales of laughter he says "I... I... could actually feel the fear from Zack's voice from where I was sitting - it was that intense!" Nat stares at him without saying anything.)

Max: What? You don't believe me?

Nat (flatly): No, I don't. I think that if your story was true, I would have noticed it in Junior's behaviour towards his dad.

Max: I swear to you on the grave of my departed grandfather that everything I have said is true!

Nat (innocently): So you won't mind if I ask Zack, since he's finally turned up? (They both look towards the door and see a very, very angry Zack storming in.)

Max (turns to Nat hastily): This conversation never happened, you got that? You heard nothing... saw nothing... know nothing! (Turns back to Zack.) Wow, you look like you just heard that Babangida had proudly and publicly admitted stealing 50 billion dollars of Nigerian money and had added that he planned to steal some more after rigging his way back to power and there was nothing anyone could do about it! Or what else could put you in a fouler mood than we're used to seeing you in?

Zack (turns on Max in fury): Are you saying that I'm always in a foul mood? Eh? Is that the kind of idle rumour you spread about me when I'm not around?

Nat: Actually that's not quite true. You see, the kind of rumour he spreads is...

Max (hurriedly interrupting): Nononononono, Zack, that's not what I meant at all. I mean, what I meant was that you were usually rightfully indignant about the many wickednesses that plague our dear nation. Obviously, it is one of these wickednesses that has put you in the mood you're in right now. How about having a cool glass of kunu to cool you down, and then you can tell us all about it?

Zack (accepts a glass from Max and gulps deeply): Ah, that's better. I cannot believe just how abysmally bad the transport system in this city is! It's absolutely atrocious!

Nat: Ah, I take it that's why you were delayed, then.

Zack: Yes o! I'm really fed up of having to deal with this anarchy on a daily basis. I honestly wish that damn mechanic would hurry up and finish fixing my car!

Nat: I think what happened today must have been extra special. We don't usually hear you complain about public transport as vocally as you are doing today.

Zack: Well, I boarded the bus takes me to this place from work. I usually pay about forty naira for the journey, but for some unknown reason, the bus conductor said he was going to collect sixty naira from us that evening.

Needless to say, everyone protested, but the conductor was adamant that he was going to collect his sixty naira, and if we didn't like it we should go and find another bus. That shut most of us up, but there was one fellow who said that he was going to pay not a kobo more than forty naira.

Of course you can figure out what happened next. When the conductor started to collect his fares, the rebel handed him two twenty naira notes and gave him a look of defiance as if to say "do your worst". Predictably enough, a war of words started up with the conductor saying "Sebi I don already tell you say na sixty naira I go collect!", the rebel saying "How can you charge me sixty naira for a forty naira journey... I'm not paying!" and the rest of the passengers murmuring their support for the rebel.

Eventually the driver stopped the bus and said he was going nowhere until the rebellious passenger paid the remaining amount. There was yet more shouting for another fifteen minutes, and it was looking like the argument might turn physical at any moment. I was thoroughly fed up of it all, so I decided to play the peacemaker by offering the conductor the extra twenty naira.

Nat: An excellent win-win-win solution! The conductor gets his money, the rebel doesn't pay more than forty naira and everyone else avoids further delay to their destination!

Max: Actually, I think it's more of a lose-lose-lose situation – the conductor's exploitation is validated so he will try to exploit again the next time, the rebel's response is also validated so he will pull his rebellious stunt next time thus delaying the rest of the passengers, and needless to say, poor Zachariah has had to part with a whole twenty naira.

Nat: Ah, so that's what delayed you. Well, at least you got here in the end.

Zack: No-o, that's not all that happened.

Nat: What?

Zack: We had been travelling for another fifteen minutes after resuming our journey when for no reason, the bus broke down on a stretch of expressway. The passengers then proceeded to vent their collective anger and frustration upon the heads of the driver and conductor, especially because they had been forced to pay more than usual.

Max: Let me guess – the loudest voice was that of the rebel, right? Even though he hadn't had to pay any extra?

Zack (in a surprised tone): Actually, yes, you're right. To hear him shout, you'd have thought that he regarded the bus breakdown as a personal affront.

Nat: I'm sure he's one of those people who just thrive on aggression, disharmony and controversy. I foresee him dying of a high blood pressure related illness at the age of 46.

Zack: Such people have their uses, but I got the sense that he was merely desperately seeking attention. Anyway, the conductor brazenly announced that the passengers had two options – they could either wait for the bus to be fixed, or they could hit the road. Of course the clamour redoubled, but by this time I had decided that enough was enough and I was going to make my way through some other means. Two incidents in the same journey is very suspicious – perhaps God was trying to tell me something.

Max: Didn't the other passengers frown at you for your lack of solidarity as you walked away, then?

Zack: Soli-wetin! Are you serious? As soon as I started to walk away, most of the rest of the passengers else followed. I tell you, we're a spineless lot, we Nigerians!

Nat: I think you're being too harsh. Perhaps they were as completely fed up as you were of the situation, or like you they viewed it as a sign from God. Did the rebel follow the rest of you?

Zack: At first he was going to do his rebel act, but when he noticed that he would be performing for a substantially diminished audience, he too slunk away.

Nat: So you finally got another bus and made it here, right?

Zack: No-o, that's not all that happened.

Nat and Max: You're joking!

Max: Did you get held up by the state governor's convoy?

Nat: Were you involved in a motor vehicle accident?

Max: Were you accosted by area boys, armed robbers or (worse still) policemen?

Nat: Did the driver of the bus you boarded take you to a wrong destination?

Max: Did you sleep off on the bus and wake up in the bus garage?

Nat: Or were you abducted by terrorists who recruited you into their cell and got you to launch high profile attacks against several Western governments? (Zack and Nat stare at him.) No need to look at me like that - I'm just considering all the possible options here.

Zack: None of these happened. You see, all the buses that passed by where I was standing were filled up, so they weren't stopping. In the end, I decided to take an okada.

Nat: An okada on an expressway! What were you thinking?

Zack: With hindsight, I don't think I was thinking at all! I should have taken a hint when I saw the rider swerve across three lanes of the expressway to pull over. But I was really tired by then.

As soon as the guy took off, I knew I had made a mistake. My brothers, during that ride, I saw my whole life flash in front of me several times. The man was reckless – absolutely reckless! I lost count of the number of times he would swerve in and out of traffic with inches to spare. After seeing that screaming, cursing, begging and pleading for him to stop his daredevil antics had no effect, I resigned myself to God's protection.

Nat: I don't understand – why didn't you ask him to stop so you could get off?

Zack: Of course I ordered him to stop several times – but I don't think he could hear me over the noise of his motorcycle revs. Besides, I dreaded to think what kind of manoeuvre he would have pulled off to try and stop – assuming he would have wanted to stop. I think he was actually enjoying himself – throughout the ride, his mouth was permanently set in a manic grin. Every now and then, he would make a whooping noise that sounded like "Shakarakama!"

Max: I think the Holy Spirit of Motorcycling must have descended on him.

Nat: Anyway, please tell me you had no further adventures and you got here safely.

Zack: Thankfully, yes. The foolish rider was expecting me to pay him, but when he saw that the anger in the look I gave him was anger borne of a thousand wrongs, he knew that he would be foolish to be the only one to receive its full force.

Max: OK, so you obviously had a bad day. But why does the city's transport system come in for harsh criticism?

Zack: Can't you see? There is a complete lack of absence of regulation of the public transport in this place! You have buses that are one breakdown away from the scrapheap driven by drivers who shouldn't be allowed within a hundred metres of a steering wheel and managed by conductors who charge arbitrarily high fares.

Max: So you'd introduce more regulation, right?

Zack: Yes! I'd ensure that the bus owners took them to garages for regular checks to ensure they were roadworthy. I'd ensure that the drivers were certified as fit to drive by making them sit special tests. And I'd set strict guidelines as to how much the drivers could charge so everyone knew what to expect.

Nat: Sounds good, Zack.

Max: Except...

Zack: Except what?

Max: Look at all this regulation... regular checkups cost money... fixing faults found during checkups costs more money... certification costs even more money. I wonder how the bus owners are going to find this extra money... Hmm... let me see... oh yes! The passengers! They can pay more! Why didn't I think of that before?

Zack: Why do you always have to measure everything in terms of naira and kobo? Can you put a price on a life saved by preventing accidents due to poorly maintained vehicles?

Max: Oh, don't mind me, Zack. I mean, I have my Lexus – I'm not going to have to pay anything extra. I just feel that Mr. Rebel-of-the-bus will have many more people joining his army when they see their bus fares have been hiked.

Zack (nastily): Perhaps they won't have to pay extra. Perhaps I'll just introduce a Luxury Car tax levied on expensive cars to pay for it.

Max: You wouldn't dare!

Zack: Of course I would!

Max: We luxury car owners are powerful people... we'll mobilise to have you voted out of office if you tried to pull such a stunt!

(Max and Zack continue to bicker while Nat (after initially half-heartedly trying to make the peace) settles back and enjoys the fireworks with a grin on his face.)


3 Comments:

  • Great!!!!!!

    A few minor corrections:
    1) Nat's 2nd line - I think you meant "Lizzy order someone like Zack about"
    2) When Nat and Max were trying to guess what the 3rd annoying incident was - I think you meant "(Max and Zack stared at him)"

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At December 21, 2006 5:11 pm  

  • Gosh, you're right! I don't know whether I'm more embarrassed that I made such a sloppy error, or grateful that I now have the opportunity to fix it.

    Anyhow, thanks for pointing that out, O Eagle-Eyed One.

    By Blogger Atala Wala Wala, At December 22, 2006 10:39 am  

  • you're welcome,

    signed be "eagle-eyed one"..LOL

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At December 23, 2006 4:25 pm  

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