I had to choose between a danfo bus and an okada to Berger. They both have their pros and cons. A danfo would be slower, but my white would be void of the dust hovering along the road. The okada would be much faster, but my hair, white shirt, black trousers and shoes, would be targets for the dust or mud, depending on the weather. I discovered a shorter route the day before, so I went for the bus.
At the bus stop, the woman who asked me about voter’s registration was also there. I greeted her, hoping she doesn’t bring up the topic. She doesn’t. I was not even sure if she recognised me. She flagged an okada, asked if I’d like to join, since I might have been late. Maybe she does remember. But I’d already decided for the bus, and besides it would be weird grinding another man’s wife, all in the name of entering an okada for a thirty-minute journey along a gallopy road. I responded with a curtsied no.
My patience soon paid: a danfo bus undulated towards my bus stop like a boat surmounting turbulent waves. I waved it down.
The bus had no conductor, it was just the driver. The driver was a dark thin man, probably of average height. His hoarse voice made up for his frail frame. Before he picked anyone, he made sure to tell them the price, “Na hundred naira o. If u no gree, no enter my bus!”
Those who felt the price was too high for such distance stood back, some grumbled but still entered, others entered without flinching. A woman, with a baby strapped to her back, sat beside me. She greeted me. I offered her a quick smile in response.
Something was wrong. The driver was screaming. Someone was yet to fully pay. His quick calculation amazed me. Perhaps, maths would be easier if the equation was money. The driver shouted and screamed, huffed and puffed, threatening to curse the defaulter. Finally, a woman confessed to paying fifty naira. The driver screamed, asking why she had entered if she had known she won’t pay. She called the driver a thief, saying the usual fare was fifty naira based on where she boarded.
The passengers supported the driver:
“But he said it was hundred naira now.”
“Those who couldn’t pay went off, you should have done same.”
The woman kept quiet, but her scowl still remained plastered all over her face. She never paid the balance. The driver never stopped grumbling.
Something was wrong again. The woman with the baby stood up immediately and started wiping her sit with a scarf. She was wiping some sort of liquid. And it had already trickled towards my ass. I immediately jumped up. The woman kept wiping. Her baby had just urinated.
I looked at the woman, every trace of cordiality erased from my face.
“I’m very sorry sir. Please forgive me. Please…”
In a bus like that it was hard to react the way I would like to do, I was well dressed and the woman was a mother, with a baby for that matter. The only option I had was speech, controlled speech.
“Why didn’t you wear pampers for the baby?”
“I wanted to but it was too cost, please forgive me.”
Fine, a poor woman with a child. All eyes were on me anticipating my reaction. Most of the passengers were women, the rest were older men, with the exception of two school children.
“Next time please buy pampers.” It was the best I could say considering the circumstances.
I collected a piece of clothing and tried to make amendments to my trouser. At least the trouser was black and the sun was hot, it should dry before I got to court. But apart from the dampness, another thing I feared was the smell. Did babies’ urine smell? I remember one early morning when I was in primary six, before I left for school, our last born, who was sitting on my lap, unleashed on my P.E shorts. Did it smell then when I wore it to school?
“When you get to Berger, buy pure water, pour small on a piece of clothe to wipe the trouser.” A woman said.
I nodded. But deep down, I knew I wouldn’t do such. I couldn’t imagine wiping my ass with pure water in that public Berger; and besides, I couldn’t let that waste my time. My best bet was to hope the trouser doesn’t reek of urine. How would a grown man like me deal in public when smelling of urine?
“Last bus stop,” the driver said.
“Move closer to the bus stop now.” Some passengers protest.
Getting down from the bus, I swiped my hands across the back of my trousers to sniff, I smelled nothing. But again, I had catarrh so my nose couldn’t be trusted. As I walked, I could feel the dampness up to my boxers. For everyone I passed by, I could imagine the whiff of urine obstructing their noses, so I walked fast without turning back, at least that would confuse pedestrians as to the source of the smell. Even the smell from the gutter was an accomplice to conceal the smell. Also, my suit and tie. Who would suspect a man with a suit and tie?
I crossed to the other side of the road. The beggars had taken their various spots. I saw a new addition: it was a man. He was lying down on the curb. His back was facing the sky. The whole of his back was yellowish and oily, like someone who had been recently burnt. A sort of liquid gathered at the middle of his back. Another man stood beside him begging for alms on his behalf. A young boy tugged my trouser saying, ‘Oga I’m hungry. I never chop.’
What is the problem of a baby’s urine smell compared to all of these? But still it was my problem and I was disturbed.
This new garage was unlike the Darwinian one. What we had here was order. First come first serve was the order, thanks to the queue, which I joined. I was thinking if the person at my front or my back would smell the urine odour, if there was any. But I don’t think it would smell, because the urine did not look yellowish, like that of those who don’t drink water. The lesser water you drink, the yellower the urine and the worse the smell.
I remember back then in my secondary school, there was this particular spot on the football field where we regularly rained piss. The grasses there were once green but it had become permanently yellow, no thanks to our concentrated piss. If you stared at that spot for few seconds your eyes would begin to water; open your mouth there and it was like you were tasting pee.
On approaching the bus that would convey me to Ikeja, the conductor was obstructing a passenger from entering the bus.
“No enter my bus o! You wey call my bus jaga jaga!”
“You dey mad? You no know who I be? Because say I wear corporate no mean say I no craze for head o.”
The conductor looked at him, sizing him up. He must be thinking whether to call his bluff or not. He finally lets him in with a shaky warning. I walked past them thinking no one would have time to consider the smell of urine.
I scanned around for a window seat but they had already been taken. I picked the closest I could find, the one next to a woman sitting by the window. She looked at me, I greeted her. She mumbled something in response. Her glare was hard like stone. I looked straight ahead; the bus was gradually filling up. I hope she doesn’t smell…
“Brother you just match me.’
She later opened the window, saying the bus was stifling.
The bus began moving. The driver switched on the radio. The radio presenter was expressing his disappointment at the failure of Nigeria from qualifying for the Nation’s Cup. He was saying we were no longer the Giant of Africa, and this transcends beyond football.
Everyone’s gaze was aloof, probably tired and waiting for the week to end. Tomorrow would be Friday; hence the law of diminishing returns had set in since yesterday.
I would drop at the last bus stop, certain I won’t have to shift. I just hope I wouldn’t have to shift for the woman beside me to drop. (It was to avoid shifting that I searched for a window seat and also for the incoming breeze to blow off any urine smell). If the urine was yet to fully dry, it may show a wet smear on the bus seat if I had to move. How would I then explain to the next passenger what the smear was, if she looked at me with inquiring eyes? Maybe I would say it was sweat. Or I would tell her the truth that it was a baby that urinated etc. She would probably act like she believed, but deep down she would think it was a village curse that made me pee myself. Afterall, this was Lagos and everyone had his or her own unique problems. And when she gets to work I’d be the topic of the day as to how wicked the world was.
Luckily for me, the woman beside me also dropped at the last bus stop. We were the last to exit. I took a brief look at the seat when I exited. It was dry. Itouched my trousers. Dry. I didn’t even feel the dampness in my boxers. I wiped my hands at the back of my trousers and drew it close to sniff, my catarrh-blocked nose still revealed a negative.
Immediately I got to my court, I decided to double check, since my nose couldn’t be trustworthy. I told my friend I smelled something strange in court, and asked if he could smell it also. He took a long breath, sniffed three times and finally squeezed his brows.
“Urine,” he said, “but the smell is kind of faint.”