Granted, this sounds like another lofty claim, but had I never made use of this appliance myself I wouldn’t have believed it too. Its operating mechanism starts with an air-splitting chortle; as though the gods are mocking our attempts at twisting the hands of time. The transition platform shudders under my feet as the contraption kicks to life and assumes a rhythmic rumble. My eyes are fixed on the dial running up the radial calibrations on the speed gauge. Slowly but surely, the air around me starts to rush by, gaining speed and finally nearing the regime of a cyclone. I raise my palms to my face; they’re sweaty. So are my ears under the nearly deafening shield of the helmet I was made to wear. Yet, I still hear the steady buzz of the power engines; though unsure whether through the vibrations underfoot or those near my ossicles. My heart is racing, my mouth is dry. I can feel the air sweeping back the fur on my arms as it dries my eyes to the brink of pain. The solace I find in the backward rush of the clear blue sky overhead is not enough. I’m as scared as a cornered stray dog…
But the okada man couldn’t be less concerned about my situation. He hums a local tune a few decibels above the revving of his bike’s engines as he weaves deftly through staggered rows of traffic-jammed cars on Ikorodu road. Save for the horrid look on my face, Neil Armstrong would have been jealous of him, me and our little time shuttle on our intergalactic journey. Oh yeah! We did bend time. While other commuters waited at bus stops for commercial transport that rarely arrives in good time, I was fast approaching my destination; the JAMB office. It was past noon and I had to get my little sister’s result slip ready for the post-UME exams slated for the next morning. Necessity had finally pushed me over the mountain of excuses I had for not patronizing commercial bikes. For one, the fact that the cost of these jolly rides always encourages peace talks between the walls of my pockets discourages whimsical ascension of the soft leather seats. Worse still, there is the occasional mishap when a misdirected bike spills its load -passenger and rider irrespective- onto the road and probably into some innocent by-standing NEPA pole… or occasionally, into the hungry tires of a moving trailer. Ew!
Never mind though, the busy businesswoman who has to reach Ikeja from Victoria Island in 30 minutes isn’t complaining. Neither is the UNILAG student who has an 8 o’clock lecture on some Monday morning in the first few weeks of resumption for a new session. On the machine, he’s over both Herbert Macaulay and University Roads in 8 minutes, notwithstanding mud splashed from yucky puddles onto his new True Religion jeans, notwithstanding the occasional burn he suffers when his trousers ride high and his right leg kisses the hot silencer… and OMG! The dirty helmet!! If the privilege of not riding confined in some ramshackle bus with hard, wooden seats is not enough consolation, then the vainer benefit of sometimes sharing a bike with a well-endowed chick might just be… Or far more fulfilling, the fact that while he cruises towards a seat in front in a class of 200 (with no Public Address system), towards a sure 3% of the requisite 65% attendance for writing examinations and away from the assault of the overzealous midday sun; Lanre, his prudent, meticulous and safety-conscious classmate has to wait on the campus shuttle queue… for another 45 minutes.
Lanre Shonoiki is a final year Chemical Engineering student at the University of Lagos. An avid reader and freelance writer, he lives in Lagos.