An old, frail woman dressed in an oversized blue iro and buba sat beside me as we boarded the bus to Lagos. I’ve made that trip so many times this year that I know almost all the drivers in the park. But the woman was obviously not familiar with the trip, because she tried to bargain the fare with the bus conductor.
“Even the one we entered from Ekiti was not this expensive,” she said in Yoruba to her middle-aged companion in a raspy voice.
The vehicle manifest was passed around and she asked me to help her write her details while she dictated. The little things we take for granted: like the ability to write. (mental note: be grateful for the gift of literacy)
As the bus left the bus park and headed for the Lagos-Ibadan expressway, she sat up, straightened her back, craned her head to get a good view of the road and held that posture for the rest of the trip.
Our driver, moving like he was on a Formular 1 race track, swerved into a pot-hole. His bus, like many in the park, had no shock-absorbers, so the impact of the fall was transferred to the spinal columns of those of us in the back seat.
“Driver what kind of rubbish is this? Do you want to kill me?” The woman’s face was contorted in pain as she raised her hoarse voice. The driver slowed down for a moment but continued his reckless driving minutes later.
As passengers in the bus told her sorry and advised that she avoid the back of the bus on future trips, my mind levitated from the book I was reading to brood on other things: adulthood, old age, death. Of all the things that flitted through my mind, it was the subject of choices that perched and stayed with me.
What choices did this woman make as a young lady that landed her in the back of a rickety bus beside me? If she had lived differently would she be in an air-conditioned, chauffeur driven SUV instead? What of her children? I know many grandparents who will never make a trip as grueling as this in a bus, not because of the choices they made, but because of their children. What choices did her children make too? Where are they now?
As I thought about her, my thoughts turned inwards: where will the choices I’m making now land me in the future?