I emerge from the darkest corners of Fashola’s empire and peer into the fog – surely there is light at the next bend. There isn’t. I use the word ‘empire’ deliberately ‘cause it cracks me up. During my service year, a guy who washes clothes in his one room apartment with his big washing basin, came to introduce his business to my friend, Toni. Toni asked him to go over to me and tell me exactly what he told her. So he came and, holding out a flyer, said “I want to introduce you to my dry cleaning business empire.” We laughed for a week. Not disparagingly, mind. I know I know, this is not how it begins but I’d like to Quentin Tarantino this – start from the end and work my way back.( MS word recognizes Quentin Tarantino. When you are big, you are big). I keep doing a Taiye Selasi and wandering off at a tangent. Sorry. I’m not fully awake.
. . .so I hit the street running. Or I try.
To go running in Lagos is foolhardy, as well as an act of will, especially in many parts of the mainland. But I am not known for my commonsense. So here I am on the streets. This is Ikeja, Lagos capital city. Or so they say.
When I begin, I hope there is light at every turn, even when I take the turn that leads to Ikeja city mall. Surely not this one too. Darkness swallows me up and I have to slow, until I finally give up on running and resign myself to a brisk walk. Even that is a bit treacherous.
I am short sighted, but this would be a challenge for even people with 20/20 vision. For me, it is almost impossible. I use up more energy dodging potholes and eroding sidewalks, broken slabs that are supposed to cover gutters, and other human beings, than I do working out.
I almost get hit several times – you have to look beyond the headlights you can see, and peer into the darkness for that fool driver who is coming at top speed without headlights. I can see the Headlines Blogger and Literary Writer Gets Killed by Hit ‘N’ Run Driver or Unknown Lady Gets Killed while Keeping Fit. I like the acclaim of the first and the irony of the second, but the prospect of neither. I might even get featured in 1000 ways to die. No, still unattractive.
I am tempted to use my boom bass headphones; they drown out every external sound, but here I exercise some wisdom and use a regular kind; I need all my senses primed.
I am tempted to run on the wrong side of the road so that it becomes the job of the drivers to avoid me, and they may not hit me, whatever the provocation (ahem). I also cannot get myself to do this.
With great expectancy I approach Allen Avenue surely this has got to be lit. It isn’t. I cannot begin to describe my disappointment. What is most appalling is that there is absolutely no provision for pedestrians. The sidewalk is rough, you simply cannot run. I mean, you could, but while studying the ground ahead of you, you could run into somebody. And if you look ahead, you may turn an ankle. So you do not have a car GO AND DIE.
I am irrationally happy, however, when I pass by a fellow jogger and he does the to-the-side solidarity clap at me (you will not understand this until you read my upcoming article in Metropole magazine, but I just returned from Abuja where they don’t know it. Everybody jogs with a straight face, Boko Haram all).
The alarm sounds and I snooze it and sleep for five minutes more. It shrieks again, insistent, and I snooze again. And again. There is a special demon for alarm clocks; how else can you explain a person snoozing an alarm every five minutes for 30 minutes to one hour.
I make for my protective gear; Puma air-light running shoes with spring action (it is designed for you to jog on your toes): a tracksuit with hooded top. I will keep the hood down despite the cold so someone doesn’t Trayvon Martin me: reflective vest, then realize I don’t have one. I should beat up one of the LAWMA people and take theirs.
I reach for my rape kit – Taser, pepper spray and a small handgun. Okay fine, I don’t have any of those. I could take my perfume along. I have sprayed perfume in my eyes before. By mistake, come on, I am not into S&M. Hurts like hell. Or I could take along a small switchblade. I might not be able to whip it out in time to stab anyone, and what if I miss? Still, it is as much a deterrent as a frying pan held by an abused wife. Men who hit their wives would know.
The point is none of this would be necessary if only the Lagos state Governor would remember that Ikeja is the capital city.
Please Governor Fashola of Lagos Island, when the rains start, I won’t be able to go out running/walking again. It is very dangerous but my waistline does not concern itself with minor details like danger or potholes or unlit roads.
Who knows that spot in Opebi where it floods in a manner I cannot even describe. Yearly. I think about how I could happen on a fallen electric cable and get killed ‘cause I couldn’t see ahead. Listen, if you need to bring in investors who will make us pay toll, fine. We will of course protest.
But how can Fashola know that Ikeja is the Capital of Lagos when the Lagos monopoly game doesn’t? Have you seen that game?
The plaintiff rests.
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