Accidents in Lagos. I live in fear of that subject each day as I know the emergency response system in Africa’s most populous city is virtually non-existent save for kind strangers. Trust me, I have been a victim. When I moved back to Lagos, I rode the commercial buses in panic-mode in fear of an accident. I was the passenger gripping the iron rod in front of me, closing my eyes during the rough traffic meandering, and pleading with the driver to slow down when the fear intensified. That was me in the Danfo buses. Things changed over time. In less than two years, I became a fearless commuter in Lagos.
I mastered the fastest bus routes. I hired commercial motorcycles or Okadas to ferry me out of traffic jams and delighted in the convenience of the tricycles or Keke Marwas to navigate the inner streets. I found the courage needed to cross the four lane Lekki/Epe expressway without seeking the assistance of others. For work, the privately owned boats from CMS to Apapa and back were my preferred option. A trip on the waterways could take a minimum of two minutes and a maximum of five minutes. Yes, I time my trips. The commuting life was good in Lagos until recently.
It started with pervasive body pains. Throbbing in my calves and nerve pinches in my spinal chord area. I figured it was injuries from the past acting up. The crevices on Apapa roads made Okada trips violent and the motorcyclists’ decisions to climb boulders dividing the roads, left me clutching my chest long after I had disembarked. Then, the stomach cramps started. The daring Danfo drivers with their refusal to halt their buses when picking up passengers;The near misses whenever the bus almost rammed into a vehicle ahead; and the belligerent conductor who demanded that you hold your exact change or be ready to fight with him. They all dug deep furrows in my belly. Still, nothing prepared me for the migraines.
Swirls and a mismatch of colors are what I see when I walk the streets of Lagos. I wake up in good shape and by the time I arrive at my destination, a curtain of pain is drawn open to accommodate the city’s flooding lights. Sometimes, a shower at the end of the day eases the tension. Other times, I lay on my bed and cry. I ask, why is my body rejecting the city? Crossing roads is an ordeal and my sunglasses are a part of my commute. I embrace the darkness it offers and shun blinding rays of light. There is comfort in anonymity and separation behind those lenses. Without them, I am engaged with the system and the pains start all over again from head to toe.
If my body is indeed rejecting a commercial commute in Lagos, it may be time to drive in the city. I sincerely hope that my fears and anxieties do not crop up as I combat the selfish motorists known to terrorize each day. I must say that these pains and anxiety are strange sensations that I hope to see gone someday. Who knows, these episodes may inspire another move. For it is energy sapping to live through pain each day.
What of you? Has your body ever rejected a place before? Kindly share.