I arranged my bags on my lap and opened my handbag to bring out the exact fare for the trip. As a veteran of public transport in Lagos, it is rare for me to be without naira notes of all denominations, I even have 16 naira in coins somewhere – thanks to Shoprite. One of the most shocking experiences of my entire life was watching a woman hand the Keke driver a 1000 naira note for a 70 naira journey at Asaba.
The man didn’t cuss her Papa or call her Mama an ashewo/ashawo, he didn’t even call her an ashewo or at least call her useless. He didn’t say anything at all. He opened the compartment that had change and counted out 930 naira and gave it to her. I am still convinced they were pranking me that day.
Anyway, I was waiting for the conductor to collect the money so I could transfer my headphones from my neck to my head and settle into the book I was about to start. The woman next to me pointed at my money and I happily gave it to her so I could start reading my book for this weekend.
The Great Ex-cape by Phoebe Macintosh begins with a freelance journalist who gets the chance to go on a TV game show called One Big Question, which is very similar to Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. She gets to the last stage with 50,000 £ and the question is about Dinosaurs which is an extremely lucky coincidence as her boyfriend is a professor of Paleontology like Ross in Friends. The show is aired live.
The TV host calls the boyfriend on Live TV and the first voice he hears is Rosie’s who starts by saying she has a big question. He immediately assumes that she is calling to ask him to move in with her – or even marry, he shuts down the idea before he even lets her tell him why she’s calling.
She manages to ask the question, “which dinosaur had 15 horns” and he of course gives the right answer automatically. She goes on to win the prize money as the first chapter ends and I stopped to catch my breath as I tried to imagine how she might have felt being in the grip of strongly conflicting emotions.
The woman next to me tapped my shoulder and I turned to see her handing me back my money? My eyebrows rose instantly.
“Somebody paid for the whole bus,” she said.
I figured it was the same person who had taken the entire back seat, the woman who had settled there with her son was complaining when the conductor told her to leave the back seat as it had been ‘chartered’, she complained until someone pointed to the best seat in the bus for her and her son who she intended to ‘lap’. That seat was right beside me.
The conductor began to hand out tracts to everyone, from his expression it is obvious that the tracts were given to him by the person who paid for the whole bus. People were smiling as they collected, I was nearly shocked to see my right-hand lift to get one too.
As a rule, I don’t collect paper from people on the road or in malls or at work. Tracts, flyers, promotional offers on handbills, Adaeze no dey collect. If the majority of the population was like me, printers of handbills would find another hustle.
I collected one today and I’m not even thinking about the needless waste that is required for handbills that give minimal conversion, I’m not thinking about the earth we’re destroying, one plastic bag, one unrecycled paper at a time. I’m thinking instead of the person who used a little under 4k to bless strangers.
And the book? I’m not sure the rest of it can live up to the first chapter. And if you guessed that the Professor asked for half of the money, come and collect sweet.