City Conversations: Change Wahala

There’s nothing more frustrating than trying to retrieve one’s change from a conductor in the city of Lagos, unless you include the incessant traffic. Cries of, ‘enter with your change o!’ ring in the ears of commuters like a mantra that. It rises, howls and growls out of throats of these commuter managers in various cadences across the city.

Often thrown into the mix is, ‘wole pelu change e. Five hundred or one thousand naira ma wole o!’ with the warning resounding clear and loud enough the passenger that contravenes this edict demonstrates their readiness for combat. To prevent a clear cut winner, some quietly tell the driver or the money collector their predicament. They may either be granted admittance or barred depending on the state of their generosity.

Clever commuters quickly collect the small denominations or exact fare that others stretch or pass when the time calls for it. With this they forestall the knotty issue and gain the upper hand since more people are included in the large amount proffered. At best they get a really dirty look or insults that can be ignored by the ‘offending’ person.

There are instances where the larger note is given and the tirade begins and often doesn’t end until the final destination is reached. There are instances the exchange between both parties is overly loud with neither prepared to back down. Other times the silence that occurs is deafening and in almost all cases that passenger has no hope of getting the difference until the final bus-stop.

Since contrariness runs in individual veins some passengers harp until they get the difference due them, some obnoxious bus conductors delight in ignoring those they owe and often times want to shame them into leaving their money behind. As we all know a thick skin is a pre-requisite for survival and men and women let the snide remarks slide off and triumphantly collect their due.

The situation is no less different in a keke where the operator expects those boarding to have the exact fare in their possession. Often times it’s best to comply since it saves you the time of waiting whilst the difference is found. There are those (passenger and driver alike) that let go of change quite readily and those that don’t. The approach used sometimes determines the outcome and who emerges unscathed.

The most interesting aspect of these encounters is how it’s generally assumed that the sole responsibility for fare is thrust upon the commuters. Having the preferred denominations for their fare is almost mandatory. This is laughable since the entire population doesn’t work in the CBN or a relative that does. Bankers will also not be able to fill the requests of thousands that may desire this either.

To avoid the headache of waiting, arguing or going head-to-head about paltry sums in public transportation, there are those that are prepared and have the full complement for pesky transporters. At times they also run foul and end up at the receiving end of being insulted or cheated out of money that’s rightfully theirs.

On the other hand the BRT system prevents this occurring on buses by collecting fares and dispensing tickets before anyone embarks. Thus with the absence of hawkers, preachers etc the only sound is usually the murmur of conversation (loud or muted) and the engine grinding as it relocates hordes.

Whatever the case, the peculiar relationship that drivers and conductors have with the teeming public continually evolves. It may be as pleasant or querulous as the issues surrounding fare differences arise and the way it’s handled.

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  1. Seyi, good one as usual but just research further and you will discover the new wave in town. It has become trendy the ‘change’ issue even in the bank now. Fast food outlets are worse, business centres as well as gas stations. It’s like people just want to hold unto your due and expect you ignore it since the amount is negligible. I see it as corrupt practice that should draw the attention of EFCC (LOL). I can hear someone saying how much are we talikg about. It is shameful that CBN will mint coins but banks will reject it when you pay them same coins. Some of us are used to collecting pence and cents abroad (straight face) that we find it difficult to just walk away from it here no matter how much is involve. let anyone steal N5 and see if sharia law will pardon his wrist…

    • @Ajamsunnie: Change issues in banks…that’s serious! Yes the situation in fast food outlets is chronic and legendary in its proportion. Yes it’s a real shame that coins are legal tender but at the same time not so…

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts!:)

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