Our driver stopped suddenly and got down to the amazement of everyone in the bus. He was fed up with the insults hurled at him by the man sitting directly behind him. He just parked, got down and walked some meters away from us while talking to himself. The man who sat behind him kept on with his tirade of insults making me cringe and ignoring pleas of other passengers to relent. What started as a little misunderstanding of how much change he was supposed to collect at the garage had escalated to an exchange of words. Our driver gave it good as he got till the angry passenger introduced big words only the Oxford dictionary could explain. I could imagine how frustrated our driver was. I tried initially to calm both parties but at the moment, I just watched our driver still walking away from us. I would have fully supported his action if we were not in the middle of nowhere. It was 5:00pm, almost dusk, we had not reached our destination and we were literally sitting ducks for roadside robbery.
Finally, the bus was calm and I breathed a sigh of relief. The atmosphere of our 18-passenger bus was restored to its original self when we began our journey. We were set to continue but our driver was nowhere to be found. We waited for some minutes before delegating 3 men to search for him. It took them some minutes to return empty. Our driver was could not be found though I suspected they did not search. Panicked shouts started from the back once again. All directed to the originator of our predicament, Mr Anger, as I nicknamed him. He did not say a word but rather picked his book and pretended to read. This was a public transport, no one had the driver’s number and so I resolved to quietly pray for his safe return amidst the scary thoughts running through my head. It was not long after, he came out of the thick bush, hopped on the driver’s seat and mumbled apologies to whoever cared to listen. We were set to go to my relief. No one even asked where he went to or the fact that 3 men had set out searching for him earlier. We just wanted to leave. Suddenly a woman sitting at the back called our attention to her friend that left the bus to ease herself. Our groans matched our frustration much because we were fed up. It was of no surprise though because the woman in question ate every edible item sold on our way.
It was 3:45pm when we passed Ikire, a town famously known for its special plantain delicacy called “Dodo Ikire”. The hawkers on the road pursued our bus holding their goods ranging from soda to water to eggs and plantain. Our driver had slowed down a little to allow passengers to transact through the window of the bus. Once that was over, he took to speed again trying to make up for the time. After a while, one of the passengers teased her friend asking if she was pregnant with the way she ate every edible along the way. I could imagine what the woman had consumed in less than an hour since takeoff. If she ate the “Dodo Ikire” alone, that was fine but if she consumed both egg and soda too, I just hoped her stomach would not revolt before we got down. She replied her friend that eating was her comfort when travelling and began supplying information on various roadside foods she had eaten. Her stories coupled with her loud voice forced me to listen which was not too bad as I gained knowledge on various states, towns and their food specialty.
Presently, I would exchange all the information I gained from her if she could be done quickly and we set out once again. I never would understand those that eat any and everything while travelling. We could blame it on anxiety or just the love for food. Our driver threatened to leave but her friend said he could not do that. After all, if he had not stopped, she would not have taken the opportunity. Once again, we had to wait for someone to continue our journey. Thankfully, the woman in question was done with the necessities and came back to the bus. Our driver asked if everyone was complete and that he did not have spare time to wait anymore. We were complete and so he nodded and started the ignition. Unfortunately, the bus refused to kickstart. As the driver got down to check the engine, all passengers began to alight as it might result in pushing the bus forward for it to start and we wanted to be ready. Some swear words came out next from the driver’s mouth but I did not care. I was gradually beginning to believe this journey was jinxed. Everything was not working right from the beginning.
A passenger on call drew my attention to the name of the town we were at present. He must have been talking to his wife because he tried to calm whoever was on the other end of the line by giving a time estimate for us to reach our destination. It was 3:00pm, we were at Osu and we were supposed to arrive Ile-Ife in 3 hours’ time. As soon as he dropped his call, our driver turned on his indicator to the right. He wanted to top up the fuel tank. With my seat directly beside his in front, I had the privilege to watch his interaction with the attendant. He sang the praises of her beauty while our tank was being filled and proceeded to ask for her number. He did not for once look at the meter to confirm what he was purchasing but thankfully, she did not cheat him. When he realized she ignored him, he payed up and came back to the bus. He turned on the ignition but the engine only coughed and died. Everyone got down while the able-bodied men pushed the bus to start again and we continued our journey.
This time, however, the bus refused to start and the driver suggested we flag down vehicles going our way. We had gotten to the end of our journey together. As we began flagging buses and cars, a nursing mother who had horror stories for every incident that had occurred began again. She had not kept quiet once throughout the journey except when the woman that ate all interrupted with her story. She had begun immediately we took off and did not stop until our driver sulked off earlier. Judging by the time, she had talked for almost 2 hours straight. And she was about to begin again, this time telling us of her experience with faulty public transport and how she had got home 12 midnight. It was almost 6:00pm and I forebode her experience was about to occur again. As some passengers pushed and the driver tried to kickstart the engine once again, I told myself I would always follow my instinct whenever I take public transport.
I had missed the bus I was aiming to catch narrowly by some minutes. Due to my work schedule, I was free to travel by 12:00pm but got to the garage a little late. The bus I was directed to enter was almost full but as I entered, I paused thinking I was in a market. The driver and a passenger were arguing the new price of transport to Ile-Ife with others picking sides. It looked like the driver was a little tipsy and I began to contemplate if I should go with the bus after all. He threatened that anyone who could not afford the new price should get down and some did. Yet, the very passenger he was arguing with sat still. When the noise died down, we heard other drivers hailing him and some teasing him and his rickety bus. At this moment, I decided to get down but the bus was ready to go. His fellow drivers helped push the bus till it roared to life and we zoomed off.
Everything counted against this journey. The rickety bus, tipsy driver, angry passenger and my instinct. It was good riddance when a car parked and offered to take some passengers and me along. The angry passenger was still beside the driver and I laughed within myself wondering if the passenger was sent to frustrate his life. I now had a story to tell about public transportation.
Osanyinro Oluwaseun, a graduate of Microbiology and currently a master student of Public Health at the University of Ibadan runs a blog on WordPress deejemima.wordpress.com