Black Stripes at Dusk – Gozie

Commercial 'danfo' bus

Gozie was jerked from sleep no thanks to the bump from the commercial bus he was in entering a pothole, while it took him and others from Ikeja towards Yaba at the dusk of a wet Thursday in Lagos.

“Make una no vex na!” implored the bus driver as passengers rained abuse on him for the discomfort of the pothole, with most insults coming from a woman sitting by the window on the row right behind the driver.

She had hit her head or shoulder hard when the bus met the pothole as it approached Town Planning bus stop at Anthony. Gozie was not sure where she was hurt exactly and he really couldn’t be bothered to know from the back of the bus, sitting by the window at the right side of the bus.

Gozie had sat there gratefully and watched a man grudgingly make his way past him to the dreaded place in a danfo bus at the extreme end of the bus, which in Lagos is the most undesired of all the sitting places in any danfo bus.

One only sat there when not in a hurry or would only alight from at the last bus stop. Otherwise, that seat was always avoided like a conductor would a bus stop tout or the police.

Having figured where the bus had reached by looking out the window, Gozie produced his wallet so he could be ready to hand the conductor his fare without trouble. He hated how they usually bickered when a passenger didn’t hand them their fare at the first time of asking.

“Town Planning?!” called the conductor, there was no response. “Iru eyan wo ni eleyi ntori Oloun?!” he lamented moments after. “Shey I no talk ‘no shange!’ before you enter?!” he continued at a man in the middle row who had produced a one thousand Naira note to pay his fare. The man didn’t say a word, but simply held out his thousand Naira hand till the conductor grudgingly took the money.

Gozie handed the conductor a two hundred Naira note at his turn to pay, ‘I’ll take a bike home when I drop at Onipanu’ Gozie thought as he contemplated how he would make his way home with the remaining one thousand Naira note he had.

“Onipanu na two hundred madam!” bellowed the conductor at the female passenger beside Gozie before twice calling out “Obanikoro?!” moments after passing Town Planning, getting no response either time.

Meanwhile the woman the conductor had bellowed at moments ago was insisting on paying fifty Naira less, but the conductor was having none.

“Close your door o!” yelled the passenger by the edge of the seat behind the two front passengers with the driver, “before dem bathe me finish”. But the conductor ignored that passenger as he continued collecting fare.

The woman beside Gozie hissed as she collected her three hundred Naira balance from the conductor. “I don’t know how Onipanu is two hundred from Ikeja o, thief!” she said loud enough for everyone to hear, but the conductor ignored her too.

“Your money!” he asked the penultimate passenger at the back while arranging the Naira notes in his hand, with the higher denomination notes inside the bundle and the lower denominations on the outside. ‘And he would say he has no money to those touts’ Gozie said in thought.

“Staff!” was the passenger’s reply and Gozie turned quick enough to catch the man put a police cap and a wry smile on. Gozie could not help the chuckle, and he was joined by the woman beside him whose smiled beamed.

The conductor’s countenance went from thoughtful to caged rage. “Una go just dey do like… ” but the conductor was interrupted by the man sitting by the door on the row behind the driver, “Close. This. Door! Na?!” after getting splashed again by a passing vehicle.

The conductor obliged him this time. “Humph!” came the irritated muffled sound from the woman in the middle row sitting on the makeshift seat by the door, right under the conductor’s oozing armpit.

“Your money!” he called to the last passenger who smiled before handing him a one thousand Naira note, much to the conductor’s dismay though he only grumbled.

“Palmgrove?!” he soon called while handing the last passenger a five hundred Naira note as part of his balance. No one answered. “Onipanu” he then called, “Palmgrove wa o!” answered a woman in the row behind the driver. “But I… ” but the conductor cut himself short and shook his head before confirming to his driver “Palmgrove wa.” adding “go front small before you stop.”

The driver did as his conductor instructed but no sooner had the conductor opened the door when a tout appeared asking for money. The disgusted conductor hissed before tactfully showing the small denomination notes in his hand to the tout. The latter was not convinced, “Ògbẹni fun mi l’owo jor!”

“Ehz!” started the off-duty policeman. Gozie was still not sure if he really was a policeman or just an impostor, but he was not going to trouble himself finding out. “Which yeye money you wan collect you dis tiff!” he shouted to the tout, probably ‘trying to justify his ‘staffness” Gozie thought.

“Who born dis one?!” retorted the tout. “Hin mama!” said the policeman, adding “Commot here jor!” only for the tout to hiss and retort “if I snap you for video now, ori youtoob lo ma de like your hundred Naira sister na! Ashiere!” before he alight from the bus which was now moving slowly away from Palmgrove bus stop.

The tout was referring to a now suspended policewoman who was the main character of a recent youtube video showing her demanding money from a conductor. The policeman here caught the subliminal and yelled “you dey crase!” at the tout before taking off his police cap, embarrassed. ”I loff youtoob!” the tout responded, mimicking popular rapper Olamide.

Gozie chuckled again and answered “O wa o!” when the conductor called his bus stop. The bus stopped at Onipanu, with another tout demanding money from the conductor.

Gozie alight from the bus, followed by the woman sitting beside him, who needlessly called the conductor “ole!” as she did. “Aṣẹwo, na your mama for Empire be ole” he retorted as he settled the Onipanu tout before jumping onto the bus like most conductors do.

The woman yelled insults at the departing bus as Gozie smiled while making his way to the pedestrian bridge. It started to drizzle just then. ‘Definitely taking a bike home’ Gozie decided in thought.

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