Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Red Light, Green Light

Ed's Note: I think it's high time I had this particular rant. In fact, it's been a long, long time coming.

When I was a kid, there was a game we played called "Red Light, Green Light". The game was based on the colours of the traffic lights, so someone got to play the traffic light, and the others got to play cars. So, when you heard "red light", you stopped, and when you heard "green light", you moved. The purpose of the game was to get to the position of the "traffc light", and in so doing, you got to take over and exercise some iron-fisted, dictatorial control over the rest of your playmates since no one could move without your say so. But if a player moved before green light was called, the person either got thrown out of the game, or ordered back some steps. And no, no one could play the role of a bullion van.

Now I am an adult, living and working in Abuja, and sometimes I wish I could play that game with Abuja drivers, only, instead of throwing rule breakers out of the game, I'd get a fucking car compactor and crush their fucking cars. Preferrably with them inside. The amount of broken glass I've seen on the road in the last year is enough to build a glass car, complete with glass wheels and a glass engine. I don't know if referrring to many Abuja drivers as maniacal psychopaths would be construed as an insult to true maniacal psychopaths everywhere. They don't stop when they see red lights, they drive on the pedestrian walkway if there's a hold up, and they see absolutely nothing wrong in staying in the turning lane, then heading straight, usually running into someone who was turning.

And don't even get me started on the speed. I know that for many Nigerians, the idea of a road that is both wide and smooth is a fairy tale. But many, on arriving at just such a place, react like they're in heaven, and decide to find out whether the 200 on the speedometer was just put there by the manufacturer or if it's actually an attainable speed. And then, with screeching tyres and melding metal, they're reminded that they're actually on good ole earth.

A couple of nights ago, I watched some idiot total an Inifinti QX9. He approached a corner way too fast, and instead of heading straight and looking for the next U-Turn, he jumped on the brakes and tried to make the turn. (Perhaps he'd just finished watching "The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift" or something.) In any event, with loud squeal of tires, he slammed into the road divider, went airborne, and came to rest against a stop light. And, just to prove that Fortune is indeed blind and takes care of fools, he stumbled out of the wreck with nary a scratch. The wonders of modern engineering, perhaps. Others, though, are not so lucky.

Nigerians appear generally incapable of exercising any sort of self regulation when the authorities decide to abdicate. Whenever I stop to allow others pass, I am assualted by a cacophony of car horns, and other drivers decide to zoom around me since I apparently don't have a destination in mind and am just wandering aimlessly.

Now, in the event of power failure (insert hearty guffaw/snide snicker here) the human back up is expected to kick in to prevent accidents. It is a notorious fact that at several junctions in Abuja, the traffic lights have not worked for so long it would be safe to assume they were installed by an ancient and wonderfully idealistic civilisation.

At these junctions, which are entirely in human hands, you must screw your courage to the sticking place if you're driving towards them at any time between 12 and 2pm. Because that's when the traffic controllers choose to retire to some leafy shade to gist and watch the traffic control itself. Of course, when the inevitable accident occurs, they hop out adjust their uniforms and haul out the trusty rope and blue chalk to apportion blame for the incident. Never mind that they are being paid to make sure that the accident wouldn't occur in the first place.

And, before they start bitching about the lousy pay and poor work conditions, there are some of them who take some pride in what they do. There's a particular guy who can be found at his post rain or shine, and not only does he do his job, he fucking dances while doing it. I guess that makes him special, huh?

In any event, it's only God that keeps one out of the crosshairs of these fucking wacko drivers. And I pray I never run into one. Because I'll fucking murder the bastard.

2 comments:

M. Sheriff said...

Maybe you should try playing red light, green light with your playmates... oops, other drivers.

AlooFar said...

Maybe you should. U sure write like fire!

Cheers.

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I love my country, enjoy a cold beer once in a while, rabidly support Arsenal FC, but I don't get Diet Coke...