…Please!! I’m at your back.
When the solemn declaration above is made, just one thing comes to mind- QUEUES!!! Not just any kind of queues mind you, it is the very very long ones that seem to lace almost everywhere in our beloved Lagos megacity.
The centre of excellence keeps experiencing a massive population boost as everyone seems to think gold is picked on the streets and once you make it in, you have made it big. A major downside of this is that there are just people everywhere. Unfortunately, Lagos occupies a very small landmass and most of it constitutes water which makes the land available too small to contain everybody. Closely related to this are the limited services available to go round for everyone and the struggle or hustle one has to experience before laying hold on these services. It used to be a lot worse in times before when no one cared about any form of organisation or civilization when trying to hustle for services. You’ll just hear noises around you that sometimes deteriorate into fist fights and when you inquire about the situation, you figure it was a case of someone getting attended to first when he came later than those who had been waiting prior to his arrival. Then people came up with the idea of forming queues even at places one would refer to as the oddest; It seemed like a one million dollar idea. The sight of queues brought a breath of relief and assurance to Lagosians who began to realize that all you had to do was get to a place in good time, join the queue, wait patiently and then it would be your turn to be attended to. There was for a brief moment no case of pushing, shoving and fighting, thereby portraying organized settings in places where you’d least expect them.
And then the idea started becoming annoying, Why? Simply because queues shot up in all places; Imagine a life where you are not fortunate enough to live in a house equipped with basic amenities in the uptown parts of Lagos. You wake up in the morning to queue for water at the nearest water pump, you queue to use the bathroom you share with your neighbors, you run out of the house almost late for work to realise that you have to queue for a Keke Napep or danfo at the bus stop. Worse of it all, the buses do not even come fast enough and sometimes you have to wait in line, under the unforgiving Lagos morning sun for about 15-30 minutes. Good luck to you if you are to board 2-3 buses to work as you have to wait at the each garage for every bus to arrive. Then the struggle continues, you might need to use the ATM sometime during the day and trust me, the lines at the machines are sometime very scary. Someone once asked the question: “people are usually saying there’s a recession in Nigeria and there is no money but still you see massive queues at ATMs. Please, what are people withdrawing since there is no money?” This ATM factor is made worse by people who clearly do not know how to operate the machines but keep fiddling with it over and over. Coupled with the fact that you have to queue to buy even food, to deposit money in a bank, to board a BRT, to use a pedestrian bridge, at supermarket pay points, at voting centers or even at registration stands for whatever it is you are there for. Let us not even imagine the queues at fuel stations, especially when there is a nationwide scarcity. People leave their homes as early as 5am in their cars or with kegs to stand at the queue which they might as well be waiting on till noon sometimes without actually getting what they came for- Just tell me how a human who has queued for such long hours at different times for different things in one day not lose his patience or cause a scene whenever queues pop up.
Some others are fond of not making life any easier, they annoy you with remarks that can spar up an argument or a brawl, words like:
- Telling you all their family members are behind them and it would be your turn when the last of them is attended to
- Someone in front of you talking above your head to a friend at your back not minding how rude and mannerless it is
- People with backpacks using them to shove and rub your body when you are standing directly behind them
- Friends allowing a friend who is clearly just coming to the scene into the queue without regard to those at the back or the treating of some people as overly special by the service providers
- Then the occasional pushing and feet stepping from all around
Trust me, the list is endless. A lot of people have even been pickpocketed, injured and insulted while waiting in line. What is supposed to be a solution to a burgeoning problem is now in itself a challenge to Lagosians.