So I entered a molue, on a whim. Now to the uninitiated, molues are those unsightly, puke-yellow-coloured monstrosities that ply only Lagos roads. They used to be called buses about two lifetimes ago. Now they are just relics of a past civilization which somebody is desperately trying to keep alive. They really should rightfully be in a museum somewhere.
I’m sure nobody enters a molue bus on a whim; at least not anybody with any shred of commonsense. For starters, it’s quite ugly, loud and has too many people dressed in blousy clothes of Ankara and cheap baby lace—doesn’t look like my crowd. Not to say that the thing looks plain dangerous with all the sharp metal edges on the inside of it which could injure you if you were not looking. That of course is if u don’t die first from suffocation. There are usually about 40 people sitting and what looks like twice that number standing. It was all of these and then something else . . . Adventure.
Whenever I look at a molue waddling by, I think to myself, “What kind of Lagosian am I who never entered a proper molue?”
See, the thing had too much going for it. It seems to contain so much history and the sheer age of the thing speaks of tradition, plus there was the sheer magnetism of ugly things. Rustic charm anyone?
So I pursue one of the molues on my way from work and hop in (goodbye BRT)—it never completely stops before you have to hop in, see what I have turned to? (I hope my mom does not read this). And off we go, I’m so glad I can get a seat on the second row aisle, beside a nursing mother, with skin the colour of Amala, her breasts looked like a particularly badly turned batch of Amala. Lumpy and scaly.
The chair seems designed specifically for discomfort, it’s too high for me to be properly seated and too low for me to be outrightly standing. The too-smooth tarpaulin upholstery made me feel like I was slipping off the thing and had to hold onto the seat in front. I don’t think shock absorbers were invented when these things were made because every single bump on the road was felt in ‘shaken pressed down and overrunning’ multiples.
Somebody in front was selling a certain “mixture” that was allegedly made by German doctors and is famed to heal everything from tooth ache to erectile dysfunction. And immediately after she had finished—or was it before? Somebody else was up, begging for money to do a surgery on a little boy with a grotesque formation on his face. And after that, a woman clad in white lace and yellow beads; they say she’s an Osun priestess. She does something that sounded like preaching, punctuated with bell rings and excited hand clapping. Of course all of this was done in Yoruba—which yours truly does not understand.
The bus was at this point piled with more people than I thought possible, and the heat, the lack of oxygen and the discomfort of my posture was doing a number on my body. I never fully realised just how much that number of bodies would smell, and nobody around me seemed to notice. To them, this was a classic commute. But I was hurting, big time.
What had started as an adventure turned awry when I had to sit/stand/crouch in my position for countless hours in Lagos traffic (I had not thought about that). Now, if you have never seen Lagos traffic, you should be happy. It’s a tourist attraction and a nightmare all on its own.
I now had pains in more places than I cared to count, I was beginning to feel queasy and my eyes were tearing (I swear, I was not crying!). I was feeling the beginnings of a fever. 3 days of painkillers and antimalarial later, I realise I’m not as hardy as I thought.
Is there a lesson from all of this? Yes. Not every adventure is to be embarked upon. And yes, next time I look out from my comfortable perch in an air-conditioned red bus (for which I have to pay about 4 times what I would have paid in the molue), I would do well to remind myself just how privileged I am. And that everybody in a molue would rather have my seat. For them, being in a molue was not an adventure, this was their reality. It does not make me any less Lagosian than they are.
Have you entered a molue? Do u have experiences to share?
Zikora is a Radio producer/presenter, and writer. Lover of books and bread. In his spare time, he writes about himself in the third person. Follow him on twitter@z1kora