Ajah can easily make you a passenger in a G-Wagon — don’t even raise an eyebrow; being lifted from a roadside in such an exotic car wouldn’t be a thing here.
Although I haven’t enjoyed such luxury yet, it wouldn’t take me aback if a G- Wagon pulled over and offered me a ride for just two hundred Naira. This’s no joke!
I’ve been in quite good cars since I moved here, transporting to and fro Ajah and other places. I’ve been in Toyota Land Cruiser, Toyota Camry of a recent version, Lexus RX330, Hyundai Elantra 2012, Volkswagen Jetta 2015 to mention just a few. Not even during the general election, the season of ritual killings in Nigeria does it bother anyone in this sphere to take caution in riding with total strangers. Kidnapping seems not to be a thing here. We waiting-passengers, sweaty, dusty, hasty, and longing to be on the fast lane of the road, hop into these cars as though we knew the drivers, as though, reasonable still, we had made a request for them on our Uber or Taxify apps.
Maybe it’s a middle-class thing: giving such rides of comfort for a price that ridiculous. Maybe being in an area well used to modern taxing operations, car owners are now unnerved and generous with their own motor vehicles, lifting almost for free when compared to the grandness of the service rendered. Maybe — despite being rich enough to acquire these cars — something isn’t still adding up; loopholes in take-home pay perhaps, thus the need to convert, in monetary terms, time wasted dilly-dallying in unending traffic.
Sometimes it’s the employed drivers using their masters’ vehicle for quick business, other times it’s the masters trying to help themselves — a rare mix of affluence and want if you ask me.
I’m in this car; it’s a master on the wheel. One can easily tell from the robustness of his body, clean haircut, fresh skin, and top-notch corporate outfit.
“Come in!” he says, as I call my destination through the passenger-side door. “It will cost you two hundred Naira.” His spoken English is impeccable.
The car is sleek. The interior is as though entering into a monoplane, heavily padded with dozens of illuminated buttons, looking turgid with light. The buttons carry figures, letters, and signs, language signs of modern technology.
The leather seat holds me in place as if to teach me how to sit, how to align myself in the most comfortable perching position. The seat must be therapeutic! I run my forefinger discreetly on its leather, it feels as though made from a swan’s skin; one can feel the gentle and innocent nature of the animal in the tenderness of that leather; smooth and at the same time crispy, gluey, like the grip of a baby. Butter-Color circumstantial sowing runs primly along the edges of the chocolate color seat, so much so that the whole setting looks edible, as though one can lick sweetness off it.
On entering, the car’s air conditioning system blows me dry within seconds; it blows me cold, flushing health into my senses, into my being. I feel heat scaling off my face like it’s a falling veil. With the sweat gone, my face is a clear dark sky now. I see everything anew.
Covertly, I inhale, filling my lungs with the purest of manufactured airs. I am tempted to close my eyes, too, to put myself in a state of blissful void. Imagine a chocolate ball swimming forever in a pool of condensed milk, I feel myself becoming lighter, as though melting away in this luxurious machine. The hairs on my body, I feel them lying upon each other, like they’re wilting plants, playing lame on my skin. My pores unnerve, allow themselves ease for the diffusion of air between the machine and me. In this car is a different world. I look through the window and see the other world tumbling by, the commotion and exhaustion rolling by with the gentle speed of a bird in flight.
When we are well into the road a godforsaken trailer, just before we overtake it, revs and pollutes the outside world with a large, thick cloud of exhaust gas , instinctively I want to fasten my nostrils with my forefinger and thumb before realizing I am not in that world, cannot be affected by its pollution, its commotion, its madness.
There’s a screen affront me. Through it, we measure our proximity to the outside world. It shows the circumference of the car, a few hundreds centimeter around it. This serves as a caution not to have any contact with the world outside, not to hit or be hit. I feel safe like a baby in a womb, like a capsule’s content.
The journey is so smooth that when, from nowhere, I hear the master ask for the agreed upon transport fare, it catches me utterly unaware. I have totally forgotten I would come out of this world to rejoin the outside world. The settings simply no longer look like a driver-passenger setting until then:
“Can I have your fare, please?”
I wish to tell him I don’t ever want to go out; get down facing anymore of the outside world; don’t want to be touched by any more flying dust or raving heat or poisonous air or maddening humans. And perhaps he can read my gesture, I remain unmoved until he takes his steady eyes off the road and sets them at me. For a second he must have thought I don’t have his fare, or I’m unwilling to pay. But of course I have my fare and I will not mind paying even more. But I don’t want to get down, don’t want to believe my destination is already at hand.