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The Heroes of Lagos

In a sense, it was my fault. I must have hit the snooze button on my alarm like ten times before I finally convinced myself that I did not have malaria and so did not have a valid excuse not to get the hell up and go to work.

Enter Power Ranger mode. Showered, dressed in less than ten minutes. Decided to switch hand-bags. Dumped the contents of the black one into the brown one. Snatched my laptop, pocketed my phone and then out the door. Luckily, I got a bus almost as soon as I got to the bus-stop. Sigh. Seemed like I would be on time after all.

Five minutes into the journey, the conductor asks for the customary 100 naira fare. I open my bag and without looking in, begin feeling around for my wallet. No show. Irritated, I look in. Sunglasses, check. Make-up, check. Notebook, check. Earphones, check. Pen, check. Handkerchief, check. WHERE THE HELL IS MY WALLET?

My heart had started a weird rhythm in my chest by now. Thud. Thud. It was my worst nightmare come true. Images of conductors tearing people’s clothes and beating them for not paying the correct fare flashed before me. I opened my laptop bag, rummaged in it, just in case. Nope! No money.  OMG! I was at least a fifteen minute drive away from home by now. Checked my watch, 7:05. I figured if I took a bike back home to get my wallet, I could still make it to work before 9 am. GULP!

“Please, I’d like to stop here.” I said in my smallest, most proper, please-don’t-beat-me voice.

“Why?” The conductor asked grumpy-like. “Where your money?”

via Lagos City Photo Blog www.lagoscityphotos.blogspot.com

“Sorry, I forgot my wallet at home. I need to come down.”

The conductor shakes his head impatiently. “When next you see me, pay me.”

Uh?

“But I no go remember you.” I switch to pidgin at his smile.

“Me, I remember you.”

“But I still no get money reach work from Marina.”

“Where you dey go?”

“Bar Beach-Eko Hotel.”

He hands me two fifty-naira notes. I’m stupefied. As I alight, I thank him. He waves me off gruffly. I don’t think he expects to see me ever again. I doubt if I will. He just, in local parlance, dashed me, a complete stranger, 200 naira. I don’t know how much conductors make but I know that this is a sacrifice on his part. For a stranger?

And then, my incredulity haunts me. It’s easy for me to think uncharitably about conductors and all the other people I automatically consider inferior because I have an education and go to work in an air-conditioned office. Hawkers, okada riders, bus drivers. It’s easy to think of them as robbers, ingrates, insane etc. Why am I so shocked by a conductor doing something nice? Why?! Isn’t he human? Isn’t he capable of kindness? He’s someone’s husband, father, son, brother, isn’t he?

I’m ashamed of myself and the stereotypes I’ve consciously/unconsciously allowed to inhabit my mind.

I’ve learnt something today though. First, to double-check that I have my wallet before I leave home next time. 🙂 Second, that there are good people (strangers) out there. The world isn’t out to “get me”. Lol! Third, I’ve learnt, most importantly, to take each person on his/her own terms and ignore the stereotypes. It’s hard, right, but it’s the way it should be.

And finally, to all the people out there like this conductor, unsung heroes who unwittingly shatter stereotypes, God Bless You.

p.s. This happened in Lagos, Nigeria. I know, right?

p.p.s. if you have or have heard of, a similar story, do share.

13 Comments

  1. minini says

    We have all let stereotypes affect our judgment of people. Last Friday, a friend of mine lost his wallet in a bus from Oshodi to Yaba. The conductor of the bus found it, went through the wallet and found his NYSC ID card. He then called the number of the next of kin at the back of the ID card who happens to be my friend’s brother to inform him that the wallet was misplaced.
    The brother called my friend and gave him the conductors number. He spoke to the conductor who told him to come and get the wallet at the bus park in Oshodi.
    He went there and all the contents of the wallet were intact.
    Some good people still exist!

    • Wow! Oshodi!
      And there I go again… stereotyping. We need to hear more stuff like this to negate the bad. It’s the only way to fully overcome discriminatory mind-sets. And you know, when people don’t expect you to do bad things, it gets harder to. And vice versa. hmmm…lightbulb!

  2. steve says

    Very well spoken… Its so true dat its hard 2 recognise d human face in people dat we classify as inferior. this is a perfect example dat shows us dat living a life stereotyped by our society is very wrong… May we show n recognise charity especially in dis lenten season

  3. hashim says

    Osemhen 2 fifty naira is 100 naira I think…lol…but really I’m happy, and those r true nigerian Heroes..he has given me hope,no matter how poor he is,he can still lend a hand to a fellow human…

    • Ehn, that 100 naira plus the 100 naira he didn’t collect from me = 200 naira.
      True that about giving hope.

  4. Oluwatoba says

    Difficult to believe! Lagos Conductor? Well, in the language of the streets, God gat your back!

  5. With ur complexion and hair he probably knows u from the bus stop. U might even have entered his bus before.

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