If you live in Lagos, you’d know that the relief we got from the legendary Apapa traffic, its children and friends and family (and by this I mean all the resulting traffic on other routes) has been rudely interrupted in recent days. After that crazy week of traffic madness a short while ago, we got a welcome break but it seems the rains and whatever else is a cause now feel we’ve been comfortable for too long. Yesterday, two trips that ordinarily would take me under 30 minutes, had me on the road for no less than 3 hours each way. It was not a party, it sure as hell was not fun, but that’s not even the meat of the matter I want to talk about here.
Now to my main gist, one day last week, I was alerted that my usual route was blocked and so I had to head to an alternative location to earn my daily bread. Now, I have one weakness ( well I have a few, but that’s beside the point). This weakness? Getting directions. It takes a few visits to a new place for me to confidently find my way around there. This could probably be fixed if I very deliberately pay attention, but all I know is that on this fine day, I was to pay for it.
I’ve been to this destination a few times with others, and driven there once before – tailing someone. So technically, this was my first time going there all by myself. Now it really is not that hard to find, however… (refer to paragraph above). And all that was needed for me to see shege was one wrong turn. One small wrong turn o. Again, if you’re familiar with Lagos, you’d understand the pain I’m about to speak of.
So here I was, trying to get somewhere around the airport axis. I had got to the airport itself, and next thing I know, I’m on an expressway in Ikeja. I immediately realize my error, and rather than reverse and correct myself – and risk getting rear-ended by an oncoming vehicle or even worse, getting caught by LASTMA (#jk), I decide to drive ahead and take the nearest U-turn I see. This decision will be my undoing. I’m going and going and going and there’s no U-turn in sight. In my head I’m thinking ‘ there must be one just right ahead’. Right ahead never comes. I drive for what feels too long and realize ‘e don happen’: I have absolutely no idea where I am. By the time I get to a bus-stop with Iyana Dopemu emblazoned on the roof, I’m literally talking myself into staying calm. ‘Sami, do not panic. Sami, do not panic.’ I’m fighting that feeling of fear that causes your palms to get clammy and your gut to feel funny, and I’m practically willing my heart to beat a little slower. As I continue to look for a way out, I don’t know which I’m more floored by – the traffic I see on the other side of the road aka the traffic I will get into when I eventually turn, or the ocean of danfos (yellow commercial buses) that I have to contend with. If you’ve driven in these parts you’d know they’re an absolute nightmare (just ask my bumper that got torn off a few weeks ago – but that’s another story). By the time I get to Iyana Ipaja, I realize I need to change my strategy. I have a feeling if I stick with this ‘driving-straight-till-i-find-a-U-turn plan, I’d find myself in Abeokuta (seeing that I’m on the Lagos – Abeokuta expressway). I find a service station right next to Old Otta Road and drive in, whip out my phone and invoke good ol’ Google maps. Following the directions, I start to drive. I exit at the right gate, take some inner roads off the expressway, drive through one muddy link road that looks like what will suck a tyre in, pass the largest OPC sign post I ever saw, get on another road that feels like half a lane, and to my dismay, eventually emerge at the left side of the station. Apparently Maps didn’t factor in the direction of traffic on the expressway and so since my car cannot transform and step over the median barrier separating the two lanes, I have just wasted my time and I’m right back where I started!
This time, I head back into the filling station, ask to see the manager, explain my predicament and ask for directions. I saw it wise to ask someone from whom I can get reliable directions, considering the notoriety of the average Lagosian on the street. It is said that if you need directions, awon boys will give you directions. Whether it will take you to your destination though, is a whole different question. Thankfully, his directions were clear – drive straight down a particular road, get to the end, and ask again. And I did just that. After speaking to one policeman, one policewoman, one LASTMA man and one LASTMA woman (in no particular order), I find myself back on the expressway, in the right direction this time. Did I add that by this time, my phone with a data plan was dead, while the other was out of airtime?
While I don’t plan on making it a habit of getting lost, and I hope you don’t too, there are a few rules which we should stick by just in case we find ourselves in the middle of nowhere – always have a decent amount of fuel (thankfully I had a full tank). Pee before you head out to anywhere (this was not an issue that day, thank God). Have at least one reasonably charged phone loaded with airtime and/ or a data plan ( Google Maps was slightly useless on this day, but it does help most of the time). As much as possible stick to the routes you know especially if you’re riding solo, and above all, stay calm. There’d always be a way out. Amen.