I am running late so I do the feasible thing I can think of: strike a deal – negotiate my way through. I ask the driver of a bus with four passengers if he doesn’t mind moving and I’ll pay for the vacant seats: N1,500. On the ground that he picks no passenger henceforth and saves me time by driving to Onitsha directly.
He agrees but then… two passengers joins us and I re-negotiate to N1,250. He mutters and frowns. I pay no heed to his ugly frown and stutters – I am thinking of Lagos, ugly and beautiful Lagos. A love-hate relationship I have with the city.
5 minutes later, he picks a passenger. Then another. And another. And another.
In my mind, I’m like, “What’s this? What are you doing?” I assume no deal because he breached the oral contract but when I reach the last bus stop and pay him for two seats, he gets all mad-like. He comes down (as I write this, I remember he’s 5′ 7″), swears on his rickety engine and say he’ll die [by accident] if we didn’t have an agreement.
“On what ground?”
He keeps ranting. I keep checking the minute hand on my wristwatch. About ten to fifteen minutes goes to waste. This isn’t a discussion. This is a man deeply immersed in the bad blood of Onitsha to trick people, trying to drag me into an argument.
I refuse to be dragged in. Into the pit of argument. Possibly, fisticuffs. I remember I can’t fight too.
I ask him his standard turnover from Awka to Onitsha. N2,600, he says. I ask how much he made. N1,400, he says and, “Guo the money yourself.”
“No, you count it yourself. I don’t have time for this.”
He counts hurriedly. I watch him. I’ve lost all my trust in him. He’s all sorts of shady and I can’t afford not to watch him. I ask again, “So, it’s N1,200 left, right?”
“If N1,200 is your problem, here,” I hand N1,200 over to him, “You’re wrong but I have important things to do else we’ll stay here all day.”
He curses at me. I tell him to be careful with the engine he swore on because it could turn to karma; you know, karma always lives close-by.
He scoffs at me. I walk away and signal to an okada rider.
Some minutes later, I’m at the park and I’ve missed the 9am bus. We proceed to another park and I catch a bus just about leaving the park – that is right after the okada rider says he wants to take me to Mikel bus, “Mikel [of Chelsea] nwe very fine bus.”
“No, I don’t want Mikel bus. Take me to GUO.”
At GUO, my ticket number is 23. When I travelled down from Lagos 4 days ago, my ticket number was 23. Coincidence! I go back and change it but I didn’t change it because I think the witches and wizards in my village are counting for me and monitoring me; I changed it because it’s not close to the window and I can’t look out when I’m bored with faces in the bus.
I run into the bus, a ticket number 13 held loosely in my left hand.
I take a seat and thank God for not making me stupid because of N1,200 then I slap myself upside the head for negotiating with a man that doesn’t stick to his words.
The driver gets into the bus. I’m on my way to Lagos.