Vicinity: N.P.C, Valley Road. Day: Thursday. Time: 5.30pm. The gridlock is insane and the cars just won’t move. The humidity is unbearable, the air conditioner is trying its best and I’ve listened to almost every song available in the car’s music collection. This including Rhumba, with the likes of Sam Fan Thomas, Tshala Muana and Jamnazi Afrika. The collection you get from the rural area after Christmas. The collection that will let you in on the sphere of music your parents listen to. The collection that will bridge the gap between your obsession for an android phone and your father’s favorite song. These collection of songs can now be Shazamed.
Vehicle engines have been turned off and so is mine. I’m tempted to pick up Chimamanda Adichie’s Americanah from the back seat and read a page or two. But I’m worried, that in the 0.2 seconds that I’ll have turned around, I’ll find the KCA school bus ahead of me has been granted way and it has cruised on far away from me. This bus, together with the 50 other vehicles ahead of me. So I stay put, I forget about Ifemelu and Obinze and their romance and her blog and I stare, at the back of this school bus.
My eyes zone in on the number plates. This number plate that is supposed to signify status in regards to newness and mileage and modernity. This number plate that if mentioned at a house party, makes everyone’s pupils dilate a little and has the bubbliest guy in the group go silent. A mere combination of letters, has this much power over grown, educated, cultured human beings…the irony.
As I sit and nod my head to Tabuley’s Muzina, staring at this bus whose back has the writing Nissan – Diesel, I watch these up market teenagers blow off water bubbles outside their windows and onto the top of Mercedes Benzes. I smile, nostalgic at the semi-innocence of teenage hood. This stage, where (you think) you’re no longer a child but you’re not yet an adult. This age,of experimentation and discovery and growth and confusion. This period, where if the traffic snarl up is over 15 min long, you can blow bubbles, get out of the bus in a crowd like a herd of sheep, feel cool about it, giggle a little too much and punctuate every other sentence with the word: “Like.”
I watch in delight: partially envious of them and partially grateful that I passed that tumultuous stage of life.
And then I begin to get agitated. It’s now 6.05pm. We haven’t moved, not an inch. Our cars haven’t been re-ignited from the last time we turned them off. Everyone else seems to be getting as moody as I am. Including the guy in a navy blue Subaru beside me who’s feeling posh because he has tinted windows (and he has a Subaru).
Next thing I know, it’s 6.22p.m and the three vehicles behind me are beeping, aggressively. I can imagine them saying, in their 3-piece suits, their iPhones on one hand and the handbrake on the other: “Move it, you dimwits!” referring to the traffic police.
These upper-middle class folks are hoping we can all join the club and beep along. But I sit there and smile. Entertained by the sight of this all. Agitated, but entertained too. (I mean, this is also how I get things to pen about.) But people like me are cowards, we don’t hoot because everyone else is hooting. We sit, and hum to Tabuley, and we hope the vehicles behind us will speak on our behalf.
6.40p.m, we’re finally at Silver Springs. What do I see as I approach the round-about? A traffic police, on the phone, giggling away like he can’t just believe what the woman on the other end just told him. Now I’m determined to beep, even if I’m alone. Seriously? But I don’t. Why? Because I’m a coward.
I get to Valley Arcade at some minutes to 8pm. I’m frantic, I’ve panicked, and I’m overly apologetic to the lady who I was meeting. I found her reading the day’s paper. She rose and said hello to me with the most gentle of smiles. It’s my first time meeting her and we are hoping to exchange ideas and conquer the world…hoping.
But before we draw up strategies on taking over the world, she tells me: “Over the Christmas holidays, I was sitting with my dad in the village. I was exasperated as I told him how I needed to change careers, establish myself in my area of passion and expertise, how I needed to move houses, how I needed a car, how I wanted to find a decent guy to partner up with and I just didn’t know what to do.
My father waited for me to finish blabbering on for seven minutes straight, then he looked at me and said: “Relax!”
I was confused. Did he say “relax” because I’d spoken so much and I looked too flustered and he was worried I may have some nervous break-down?
But he said: “Relax. Because one day, you will have all these things. All these things you seem to want and need now, you will have them. And then you will ask yourself: what next? You’ll start wondering why you stressed so much and worried unnecessarily. Relax.”
I looked at her, wondering where this tale was going, and she told me: “Yes, the traffic was terrible. Yes, I waited for quite a bit. But, we’re here now. Relax. Don’t sweat the small stuff.”
Enjoy the rest of your week.