“Owerri, Onitsha, Aba!”
The park boys cried out, as soon as you alighted from an Okada at Maza maza park. They hovered around you like fruitflies buzzing around rotten Mangoes.
“First lady, wia you dey go? See clean bus hia! Chasis!”
“Leave my bag alone,” you snarled at an overzealous baggageman tugging on your baggage.
“Tomato Jos, come see better bus.”
Aww… That high-and-mighty feeling when a bunch of men fawn over you. Business aside, you secretly hoped they meant every bit of it.
“Mummy mara mma, bia godu ka m gosi gi first bus. Come, nne come, we will take care of you.”
Another older stocky man said in low tones; he had a fatherly presence.
“I’m going to Owerri. And first bus please,” you said to him.
Without saying a word, he picked up your bags and nudged you to follow him, as if your consent didn’t matter.
If appearances are anything to go by, the stocky man seemed upright. So you allowed him lead you into the busy park, until you arrived at this decent-looking bus company. The company signpost read: “Testimony motors (Merry Christmas)”
The girl at the ticketing counter replied to your barrage of scrutinizing questions, just like an interview. Of course, why shouldn’t she? If a whooping N10,000 was to be paid from Lagos to Owerri, one’s comfort should be paramount.
“Walahi madam, goan ask people, this our bus is the best.”
“I need to know if it has TV and AC.” She popped her gum for a moment and idly flipped through the tickets slip book before replying,
“See the bus outside there, you can goan check sef. What’s your name and phone number ma?” She mumbled impatiently.
“Hold on, what seat number is written on that ticket? Because I can’t stand heat and…”
“Don’t worry ma. It’s window seat.”
The journey began with moodiness and painful regrets.
First of all, you lost your voice while haranguing motor park boys over extra charges demanded for your bags.
This was the scenario:
“Madam, you no dey go anywia if you no give us 1500 for load! See okporoko and crayfish wey u carry.” One ugly face said recklessly.
“And e dey smell o.” Another of his kind chimed in.
It was the same bunch of rascals who called you “pretty” and almost kissed your feet just minutes ago. So you went into full street mode, swearing on your great grandpa’s balls that no extra dime would come from you, even if other passengers complied. And yes they all eventually did – cowards! In fact, their sneers and murmurings spelt “trouble woman.”
“Then refund me!” You yelled out your lungs repeatedly, but instead it elicited laughs from the baboons at the park. They amused themselves by questioning your sanity.
The tough-sounding driver also threatened to drive off without “that mad woman” – as he had described your person.
“It is your illiterate wife at home that has loose nuts in her brain.”
You shot back.
“Dey dia dey speak grammar. Onye ara na-aga Owerri igba Christmas.” (Mad woman travelling to Owerri for Christmas).
He brashly retorted aloud, bringing down the entire park with laughter. When it dawned on you that you’d lost the battle, you marched off to the lounge area to fish out the elderly man whose candour won your patronage. Much to your dismay, instead of intervening, the stocky man played Pontius Pilate on you and immediately concerned himself with other duties. Just another conspiring old cargo you hissed, as you sashayed back to the bus – your eyes welling up. Before the rascals leaning on the bus, you dug into your handbag and tossed the baggage money at them.
“Take, go feed your children!”
Now in the jam-packed bus, wincing and grappling with the pathetic state of the bus, all you could think of was that dishonest gum popping cashier. Where was her conscience when she lied through her teeth, assuring you of a luxurious trip?
Because from the look of things, the AC fitting and the dead TV in the bus were apparently for fancy. Worse still, the hard seat rubbing against your spine should be carrying goods, not east-bound human beings. To add to your piled up frustration, the start and quench bus only moved by His grace. And you know you’re doomed when sunset meets you at Ore.