Have you ever been in a danfo that was driven by the driver from hell?! His theatrics, daredevil antics and showmanship convinced you and each and every other passenger that he had a death-wish he was trying to fulfill at that point in time! The shouts, cussing, curses and colourful abuse that rained from every corner of the vehicle did not dissuade him; on the other hand it seemed to fuel his antics. By an act of God (no other way!) you not only managed to arrive in one piece, but with the added relief of not having caused a serious accident, albeit minor incidents did not go unreported in your wake.
Another instance is one where you had the misfortune to board another commercial bus where the driver was a serial horn user! Every five seconds, his fingers were tapping out a series of blasts! The annoyance was further heightened by the musical nature of that particular horn…yes, you know the one I’m talking about! No vehicles to caution or overtake, this horn-tooting fiend had his fingers mercilessly tap out the beat from the commencement of the journey to its very end. The times when he actually had to put the instrument to its designated use was unrivalled in its application i.e. really unnecessary and prolonged! You and the headache (developed during the course of the trip of course!) got off with a sigh of relief to face what the rest of the day had to offer.
During the course of negotiating a taxi fare fellow Lagosians would have happened upon the phrase, ‘ona yen o da’. This simply means that part (hopefully not major) of the route you will ply in the course of journey is in a state of disrepair. Simply put, the cabbie wants you to pay him a subvention for the current state of the road. Better put, you get punished for having the audacity to go to that part of the city and not elsewhere. That phrase is THE most annoying one (of all time!) that comes up during a conversation with taxis on the streets of Lagos. I’ve been known to ask whether I’m the relevant authority mandated to carry out road maintenance and of course I proceed to let them know that this punishment (pray tell what else could it be?) they feel justified in meting out through their fares is totally uncalled for. As is often the case, with some you reach an accord, but the greater part goes on their merry way.
Another subject of conversation with Lagos taxi drivers is that of the weekend fare. Everyone that has ever visited, talk less of residing in the city of Excellence know (for a bona fide fact) that traffic is part and parcel of city life. This is one reason loads of people are chauffeur driven, others prefer to shuttle around on okadas when facing time constraints, whilst some only drive on the weekend. The last group rightly knows that the time to reach various destinations is reduced by fifty-percent from Saturday to Sunday of course this is not always guaranteed either! Thus, some cabs would like to earn the same amount that can be had legitimately on a traffic infested week-day (for the same route!) on the weekend. How on earth they think this will happen constantly amazes me. Certainly, there are various individuals (JJCs and what have you) that may not be savvy on this and pay them, veterans on the other hand know that this isn’t so and ultimately get a taxi that’s weekend rate compliant.
The last scenario is one I’m pretty sure has occurred to many people and will continue to happen as long as taxis and passengers co-exist in this bustling city. Having agreed on the fare, the route (sometimes) etc you get comfortable and then encounter some traffic. Sometimes it’s not slight at all and you correspondingly grind your teeth in frustration! The taxi chap might have miscalculated the time, route and other things and also didn’t bargain for this some keep quiet (few and far between!) and brave it. The majority on the other hand commence the gripe, whine and beggarly routine. They gripe and whine about the traffic, state of the road and other road-users. The beggarly aspect commences on how you must pay an increased fare rather than the already agreed amount. It readily occurs to them, that you enjoy being stuck in their car and the fact that you maybe late to your destination. The hardened ones among them can continue the begging spiel until the end of the journey unfortunate for you if there is no break in the traffic situation! Interestingly the ones that have mastered the art of keeping quiet or learned to ask (quite pleasantly and briefly too) for an increase in the fare due to extenuating circumstances usually win me over.
Each and every encounter (with the danfo or taxi driver and sometimes fellow passengers too) plays out differently and always reveals aspects of human nature at work. Honing the skills and ability to negotiate bodes well for these encounters and also has a ripple effect on aspects of our behavior and character in the long run. It tests and teaches us more about ourselves and the people with which we inhabit our beautiful planet.