It was a happy day for me. I had just concluded a small business deal that afforded me the money to buy the latest mobile phone in vogue at that time; a Nokia 6630. I was particularly feeling generous that day too so I called up my girl friend…well, she’s an ex now – and took her out on a splurge.
After a totally fun day, I decided to escort her home as was the practice. Now when I use the word “escort”, you’d probably say “Oh, she lived in the neighbourhood”. No she didn’t. I lived in Surulere at that time, while she at Ikeja. Looking back now, I have to laugh. The crazy things we do for love!
Anyway, no sooner than we stepped out of my apartment, this annoying rain started right out of nowhere. We had to run to the bus stop which unfortunately had no shade to hide under. All thoughts of flagging down a cab vanished as we saw this Danfo heading to Ojuelegba.
It was a mad rush to secure seats but with enough ‘gra gra’, I was able to secure two for my girl and I even in the midst of the struggling multitude. We got the two middle seats in the back and my girl sat on my left with my arm as her head rest. We settled down for what was a very short ride as we were engaged in a very interesting conversation.
However, the dude on my right was determined to infect me with some form of virus or bacteria, whatever he was spreading that day. He coughed and coughed and coughed! The kind of cough that comes from inside and rocks your body and that of anyone in close proximity and believe me, sardines in a can had more space than we had in the bus.
Its terrible being in a closed space where you are unsure of its sanitary conditions with a person coughing but its worse when the person won’t close his damned mouth while he’s at it!
I must have collected a fair share of bacterium that day and decided to suspend the interesting conversation with my girl and hold my breath for as long as I could. As the dude continued to cough, echoes of “ekpele oh” spilled from the mouths of other passengers in sympathy.
Honestly, I was mildly irritated by his incessant coughing and the obvious discomfort it caused me that I forgot to show sympathy for his condition. I reprimanded myself for not doing that.
“Sorry oh. This your cough is quite serious. Try and take drugs when you get home.” I said sympathetically.
He nodded as the coughing continued. I had done my bit, I said to myself. So from then on, I ignored him.
As soon as we got to Ojuelegba, he hurried out of the bus still coughing and disappeared into the crowd. I really felt sorry for the guy…until I discovered what really happened.
Here’s the part where I admit that at that time, I was a JJC in Lagos. When I usually hear people say that their pocket got picked in the bus, I’m always hard on them saying things like, “You weren’t vigilant”, “You are not security conscious” – that kind of thing. Words I learnt from my dad who is over-security conscious.
On that particular day, I wore jeans trousers. Jeans afford extra security because of their thick nature. I always believed my pocket could never get picked while I wore jeans. My left pocket housed my Blackberry phone – Cool down! It was probably the first model ever made, black and white display, a gift from my aunt and course, not activated – and my RIGHT pocket housed my few hours old Nokia 6630.
You should have seen me at Ojuelegba that day; I was mad! I had just spent about 35grand to get that phone and now it was gone. I abandoned my girlfriend and searched for that coughing rogue but he was nowhere to be found. I called the number and it rang but the guy cut the call almost immediately. I sent him a stinker text message and he switched off the phone.
At that point, I knew it was over. I put my girl in a bus and went home a very sad man.
Malcolm O. Ifi.
*This short story is my contribution to the series Bus Tales by @newnaija on http://isaacolanewnaija.wordpress.com