City Conversations: Taxi drivers

As city dwellers we must move about the metropolis. It’s always better for you if your commute is within ‘reasonable distance’. That phrase is quite subjective since we all interpret it personally on varying parameters. For some the distance of Agbara, Okokomaiko, Mowe, Shangisha, Idimu, Isheri, Epe etc to Victoria Island is as reasonable as can be. Others think such distances are simply madness!

So we have some people that move around within the city and others ‘travel’ from one end to the other. Whichever category you find yourself doesn’t matter because everyone is a bona fide Lagosian! As a real omo eko you might also have experienced many adventures in your bid for a better life in this famous city.

The yellow and black taxis have been around for ages and despite the newer fleets, air-conditioned and dial-a-cab option now available these veterans simply aren’t budging. There’s nothing as comforting as a true taxi driver that knows the nooks of this sprawling town. It’s the difference between traffic, go-slow and a day you never want to repeat. I’ve certainly learnt several new routes just by seating pretty in one. These newly discovered routes make me less anxious when I’m taken through them once again.

Like all professions, expert and amateur cabbies exist. The experts know the normal, usual, strange and possible routes in existence. This knowledge shortens the time, inconvenience and other variables experienced on Lagos roads. The amateur knows the most common routes and is hard put to extricate himself from the clutches of the notorious Lagos go-slow. So, it certainly pays to find out which category a cabbie is before you jump in.

Sometimes it’s not possible to retrieve this information and everything still turns out well. Other times you get a very pleasant surprise when an amateur shows some of the tricks he has up his sleeves. Other times the supposed veteran gives you a rude shock you happily survive. Either way the new cab companies have their fair share of the two in their ranks. Another thing is that age doth not an expert make…

There are certain destinations cabs will not ply because of the hour. Others refuse some fares because of the distance and hour of day. At times the driver simply does not know! This may be rare but it happens and the smart ones stop by a taxi park to get directions. We all know that the average random person on the street is not the most reliable when it comes to accurate directions.

I’m one of the few that’s forgotten something in a taxi and got it back. My phone dropped and I didn’t notice until later. Luckily for me when I called, the cabbie picked and we eventually agreed on a rendezvous for collection. With immense gratitude I gladly compensated him for the trouble.

I’m yet to come cross a female taxi driver in Lagos although I’ve seen one drive a keke and danfo. I can’t blame them because mere driving in Lagos takes some doing and I know many car owners that only do so on weekends. Some don’t even dare it then and prefer their drivers do what they’ve been hired for.

Taxis will continue to be necessary and part of the transportation system in our beloved city. Their evolution on the other hand unfolds right before us as we await what the future has in store. Automated cars, robots, remotely controlled vehicles and more I’m sure are already in the pipeline. Until then in the centre of excellence we go from pillar to post and some travel around in a bid to keep body and soul together.





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