The booming voice in the distance bellowed, “Keeeja inside… Ikejaa, Along…. Ikeja nsaad”. The pouring rain only seemed to intensify the struggle to board the moving bus with about ten or fifteen more bodies pushing from all ends and I could swear my bones had become mush. I managed to plunk down on the devilish wood that served as a retractable seat nearest the door before I could be pulled out again or worse thrown off as the bus jerked to life.
The evil smelling conductor bent above my head to reach other passengers behind me for his fare which had been hiked by fifty naira. The forest beneath his arms, even worse than his overall stench forced me to resist the urge to breathe as tilting my head away did not spare me this cocktail of odors. The pitter patter of rain drowned out the ramble of the OAP on the radio who seemed to have a thick Ibadan accent causing me to wonder if we were tuned to Radio Nigeria, Ibadan.
The intensity of the rain decreased as we approached Shogunle bus stop and the OAP turned out to be the driver who was deeply engrossed in a conversation/argument with the passenger seated in front. The heated convarguement became even more heated and ceased abruptly. The ensuing silence was interrupted by the conductor’s unrefined humming and intermittent whistling to a track on Pasuma’s ‘PasoWonder’ album, the same one Lekan played every weekend. As I struggled to maintain balance on the wobbly wooden construction that was my seat, I managed to find the perfect resting place for my head when Mr. Fresh boarded the bus. Goodbye sleep, hello hunky.
Mr. Fresh would be the latest prince charming of my daylong fantasies. His powder blue shirt and black pants, as though in defiance of nature’s watery element, were dry and immaculate. The entire bus seemed to have fallen under his spell as e tapped away at his phone, probably chatting on some social network or checking out the ring he would propose to me with. The magic was ruined but for a moment as the strains of D’banj’s “Scapegoat” filled the air. He hurriedly paid the conductor to avoid been hassled during his call and promptly picked the call with a sonorous “Hello”.
I settled to pick names for our children as I listened to his end of the conversation. He seemed as Adonis to me with a good diction and an occasional chuckle, I basked in my dreams. A gruff voice demanding, “Conductor give me my change” brought me crashing back into reality and I realized that my husband Mr. Fresh had ended his conversation. I turned around to identify the senior tout that had spoken. Words fail to describe the shock I came to know as I watched the conductor hand some money to Mr. Fresh. At this point, I could barely stifle the chuckle that burst forth, growing into a full laughter, entreating the rest of the bus to join me thus breaking his hold over all us.
The driver resumed his convargument with the passenger as the rain increased slightly. We approached Airport junction when the conductor bellowed “Airport? Along?” to which the woman sitting behind me screamed, “Alongi wa o” in reply. Uhhhh, ma’am weren’t you supposed to alight at PWD bus stop since you paid N70. I knew this for I’d collected N100 naira from her and given her N30 in an attempt to avoid the seizing on my own balance under the pretext of Ko si change o by the conductor. He seemed to echo my thoughts as he turned to her with a thoroughly surprised expression on his severely scarred face and replied, “Iro o. Sehunti o le gbeyin de Keeja. Owo mi ku thaarty nera”. She swore on her mother’s grave that she wouldn’t part with anymore money while he called on Sango to strike him down should he let her alight from the bus.
We arrived at Ikeja, and as the woman tried to alight from the moving bus amidst shoving and pushing, the conductor took hold of one of her slipper. She ran gave a chase, as hot as her buxom frame allowed, red in the face and cursing while the mischievous conductor asked the driver to keep driving go on soun. The driver eventually took pity on the near fainting woman and stopped at computer village. She caught up to the bus, exhausted and threw N30 at the conductor swearing that the same would happen to his mother. He let go of her slipper and without a backward glance proceeded to call on new passengers, “Oshooood, PWD Oshood… E wole, one chance oshooodi”. I laughed as I walked towards Underbrigde where I would board a bus going to Ogba. Home beckoned, I was in SS1, I had a new Casio calculator and the rain had become a mild drizzle.