I was born and raised in Lagos, Surulere to be precise. So it’s safe to say I know a thing or two about Lagos life. I can speak for myself but not for everyone. A lot of people I know living outside Lagos think living in Lagos is living a life of luxury; absolutely not. We hustle for everything, water, bus, money…everything. Starting a life in Lagos was a different ball game for my husband who thought living in Ibadan is the same as living in Lagos. He was surprised when it didn’t turn out as he thought.
Let me tell you about my husband’s first day on his first job. No…nothing “special” happened, just so you don’t expect too much. But before I begin his little story, I will give you the chance to take a walk in his shoes so that you will see through his eyes and maybe understand from the standpoint of his mind.
He grew up in the laid back city of Ibadan, and for those who also grew up there or have spent a significant amount of time in the ancient city, it is not difficult to imagine that ten, fifteen years ago in Ibadan, no matter how early an appointment you had was, if you woke up by 6 am, you would have woken up early enough to arrive well ahead of time.
If you take this background I just gave you, and you marry it with this story you are about to hear, then, you will understand by the time this story ends, how significant his first day on his first job turned out to be.
He had just finished the compulsory youth service so you can imagine how excited he was when he landed his first job almost immediately. He was to resume on Monday the 5th of November, 2007; so he arrived Lagos two days prior and by Sunday evening, he was ready for his ‘big day’.
He set his alarm to go off by 5:30 am so he could leave home by 6:00 am. In his Ibadan mind, he was going to show his new employers that no one can beat him when it comes to punctuality. That night, he pictured himself once more at his new desk before he sailed off into dreamland.
And from his blissful sleep, he heard: Olumide, Olumide…wake up, it’s 5:00 o’clock! “And so? I still have 30 minutes to sleep.” He answered his brother-in-law, trying desperately to prevent the little sleep he had left in his eyes from falling off. “You’re going to be late mister, this is not Ibadan o!” He said as he yanked the duvet off my husband’s curled up body. “If you don’t leave this house by 5:30, you’re not making it to the island earlier than 8:00 o’clock!”
He was stunned by what he just heard and still thinking his brother-in-law was exaggerating, he said “wait, you’re telling me this is how early I’m supposed to wake up everyday?
So, patting him on the shoulder, his brother-in-law answered “don’t worry, you’ll get used to it…such is the Lagos life!”
So reluctantly, he dragged himself out of bed; head foggy and gait wobbly, into the bathroom.
By the time he managed to brush his teeth, have his bath, get dressed and push himself out of the house, it was already past 6.
While he was on the bike to the bus stop, he still found it hard to believe that a journey of a little less than 30 kilometers could take more than an hour. “Even if that traffic was sent from the kingdom of darkness, I can’t get to work later than 8 o’clock.” He assured himself as the bike stopped for him to dismount.
He was trying to pay the bike man when his eye caught the sea of commuters waiting at the same bus stop he was headed to. He froze. The bike man, reading the expression on his face said as he took his fare from his hand “oga, e be like say you just come Lagos…no worry, e go soon master you. Na so Lagos life be o!”
He still couldn’t believe what he was seeing as he joined the mob to hustle for the few available spaces on the buses stopping to pick passengers.
By the time he squeezed himself into a bus, he had been punched, crushed, slapped and scratched. He was still seething from the pummeling when he looked ahead and saw the traffic waiting for them. At this point, he resigned himself to what has befallen him and he decided to catch the 30 minutes of sleep he had been denied earlier.
After what seemed like a long while later, he opened his eyes to look out of the bus, and maybe see how close they had come to the end of the Third Mainland Bridge, behold, they were still at the same spot, rooted rigid like the rocks in the bed of river Ogun.
So he got to his new office a few minutes before 9 and while he was still trying to recover from the emotionally excruciating experience he had in traffic on his way to work, his new boss called him to explain to him how the unit worked, and thrust him straight into work. Then he said “I’m sorry if it seems I don’t want to empathize with you. Your experience this morning will only toughen you for the life in this city. Don’t worry, you’ll get used to it…such is the Lagos life!”
“I’m not ready for this” he said to himself “I’ve not even had breakfast!” But he was not going to give a bad impression of himself on his first day on the job. After all, there have been times he made it through the day without breakfast.
At lunch time, he went with a colleague to the cafeteria where he was told a few more things about the job and how to survive on it.
Seeing that the Lagos life demanded the toughness of a superhero, he asked his colleague if he thought the Lagos life was built for everybody. His colleague told him: impossibility is only as real as you make it. If you think you’ll survive, you will; if you think you won’t, you’re right…
Don’t worry, you’ll get used to it…such is the Lagos life!
So a few weeks ago when his friend’s younger brother, who also grew up in Ibadan, started lamenting about the repugnant routine on his new job and how he didn’t think he was built for the Lagos life, all that he could think of saying to him were his colleague’s exact words of many years ago: impossibility is only as real as you make it. If you think you’ll survive, you will; if you think you won’t, you’re right…
Don’t worry, you’ll get used to it…such is the Lagos life!