Two times I almost got my ass kicked in traffic.
The first time, a car cut me off at the traffic light, just as I was about to take a roundabout. I felt a little bump, as if the dude’d hit my bumper. So I chased after him.
I caught him at the next traffic light and went for his bumper, tit-for-tat. BUMP!
The guy threw his door open. He stepped out of the car, dashed to the rear to gauge the damage. I jumped out of my car, too.
I freed my arms, let them hand by my sides, ready for fisticuffs.
The guy turned to look at me. He was like, “What’s that for?”
“You hit me first!” I said.
Almost in a whisper, with increasing incredulity, he said, “What..? Where…? When?”
I felt remorse and started to stammer. In my head, I realised that, wait, all of this is just stupid.
“Um, there.” I pointed upwards. “You hit my car on Oba Akran Road.”
He said, “Dude, are you okay?” Then he got back into his car. Just before he pulled away, I noticed he had a little boy, a toddler, in the back seat. He was a dad. Hope his boy is okay.
That wasn’t the only thing I’d missed before ramming his ride. This man was bigger than me. Even though he appeared gentle, he could have easily knocked the wind out of me.
The second time I almost got beaten on the road, it was also somebody cutting me off. But this time, there was a traffic jam so the offender couldn’t go far before he had to stop. When he did, I jumped out of my car and went after the idiot.
“What the fuck!” I said. “You mad?!”
The guy fired back. “You bastard!”
For a moment, I was confused. Was I not in the right in this situation? This dude actually cut me off and he’s calling me a bastard? What is this?
But it made sense, if you think about it. This driver’s attack was his way of defending himself in a mad, unpredictable Lagos traffic— at night. Also, he was a cabdriver and you know how illogical those can be in an argument.
Thank god he didn’t come out of his car. If he had, he might have punched me to the ground instead of just calling me a bastard.
I went back to my car to stew.
Lesson learnt. Why bother with little things like this when you could easily get your ass kicked. Or lose money. Or lose your dignity. Or ruin your face forever.
So now, you have to be an extremely certifiable nutcase to get on my nerves. And even at that, it has to be impossible for me to physically get away from you.
When anything similar to those traffic confrontations happen these days, I just remain in the car and turn up my music. And if I happen to catch up with the person down the road, I don’t even turn to look at them. I don’t put my finger to my temple and make a repeated clockwise circle to tell them they’re insane. I just make it look like they don’t exist.
Why? Because they ain’t shit.
Most little personal disrespect can be resolved by saying that phrase to myself. “He ain’t shit.”
If I’m trying to argue with you or fight you, it means I’m validating you as shit. Which is giving you too much attention. Which is probably what you want. Which may be costly to me. Which is wrong. Because, wait for it, you ain’t shit.
Looking at some people and thinking, “You ain’t shit” is also a mature thing to do. It means I have empathy. I’ve decided to let go of whatever they’ve done to me, because now, I’m conceding that they have their own problems. Problems that may be making them malfunction.
Maybe it’s their husband or wife. Maybe it’s the bills killing them slowly. Maybe it’s their boss that won’t stop screaming at them. Maybe it’s just this country. As promising it can be, this country, Nigeria, can kill you in an instant if you look away for more than a second.
So, I just want to say, people have their own shoes pinching them somewhere. They have their pins pricking them where no one can see. I definitely had my own pins, though I didn’t know at the time. And that’s why I was constantly on edge.
Anytime you feel like screaming at something or fighting somebody, just look at that thing or somebody and say this quietly under your breath: “You ain’t shit.”
It’ll make the world a better place.
“Be pitiful, for every man is fighting a hard battle.”
— Ian Maclaren (aka John Watson).
Before I go, ladies and gentlemen, here’s Kanye West with Jesus Walks. Try not to take it literally.