My Tormenting Late Night Bus Ride

I've definitely had hair-raising moments on a couple of occasions before. However, when it comes to travelling, it hits different. Our roads down here aren't the safest so it's always scary when things go bad. Despite that, one is bound to face a crazy situation at one time or the other while travelling, especially by road.

For my secondary school education, I was enrolled in a boarding school about two hours away from my city. I travelled home for every holiday, I never spent mid term breaks in school. So, I've been travelling alone since I was 11 years old. During one of my regular travels back home for a break I experienced a really crazy journey. Despite the fact that it's been about 15 years or so since this happened, it still ranks as one of my craziest car experiences ever, though, it is a bus in this case.

Due to some religious celebrations, we were given Thursday and Friday as holidays. Add that to Saturday and Sunday and we have four full days away from school. That's more than enough for me to pack my bags and head home for some well deserved rest away from the rigours of secondary school education.

On this fateful Wednesday, the school shortened its closing time to 4pm - the regular closing time is 5:15pm - for the sake of those who wanted to travel. And instead of going straight to the hostel to pack my stuff, I chose to play a five-a-side football match with my friends for an hour. I never really liked getting home when the day is still bright. The few times I tried it I had to greet elderly folks who knew my parents. It was frustrating as they took turns to ask me the same boring question, "Bawo ni school?"

To avoid those frustrating meet and greet moments, I left school by 6:00pm. When I got to Lagere, there was one bus on the turn. I negotiated the price, took a seat beside the window and flung my head backwards with pride. "I should get home around 8pm," I thought, oblivious of the fact that it is not my divine duty to decide what happens and whatnot.

By 6:30pm the journey began unceremoniously. After the driver tussled with the 'agberos' at the pack who were hellbent on stripping the poor man of every profit he'd made, he wasn't speeding up as I had expected. At first the assumption was that we were still in traffic and he wasn't willing to move that fast. But it became clear there was a problem when we were on the express lane. The driver wasn't changing his speed.

When we got to a police checkpoint, he could barely slow down. He negotiated quickly with them and continued the journey without actually stopping the bus. After the checkpoint, the bus was now moving slowly. That was when the passengers started asking questions because it was glaring that the bus had an issue. As the passengers queried, the driver clapped back with a series of lies; the bus became a war zone. By then, it was about 7:30pm and it would be very dangerous to stand by the roadside to wave down a bus - in case anyone gets angry enough to get off the ailing bus to find another.

After much bickering, the driver finally confessed. The gear had been stuck since we left Ife, but the man believed he could manage it all through the journey. He confessed because we were about to get to a hilly part of the road and the bus wouldn't be able to climb if it was packed full of passengers. The instructions? All passengers are to get off the bus, walk the whole length of the hilly part of the road and pray hard the empty bus will be able to climb, else we will be stranded. It was 8pm already.

Luckily for us all, the bus made the climb. We had to trek for about 15 minutes before getting to a safe spot where the bus will be able to carry us again. We got in and the slow journey continued, this time with a lot of visibly angry passengers. By 9pm we got to Owena where the driver finally stopped the bus that was already threatening to halt itself. By then, we were all so tired that we couldn't even muster the breath to insult the driver anymore. All we want is just to get home in one piece. In my quietness I thought, "Dude, this time you got more than you bargained for."

It took the driver about an hour to finally drag a mechanic down to check his bus. The one that agreed to assist came, checked the bus and told us his tools were at the neighboring village. He disappeared on a bike and was gone for about 30 minutes. We stood there with long faces praying for his return. And by the time he got back, we were no longer frustrated, we were pitiful. We just wanted to get home.

Thankfully, the man fixed the vehicle and we continued our awkward journey at about 11pm. Owena to Akure is just under 30 minutes so I got home before 12am. On getting home, everyone was already sleeping. Due to hostel rules we were not allowed to use phones. I had called my mom earlier that day at a call centre to tell her that I will come on Thursday. I chose to travel that Wednesday just to surprise her.

When she opened the door to see me standing there like a lost puppy, she was scared to death. I nearly gave her a heart attack. I walked quietly into the house without uttering a single word. That journey was one I will never wish upon my enemy. Before then, I've never felt that helpless and broken.


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