This is a meme I saw on my WhatsApp Status today:
If you’re a Nigerian you should get that joke. There are 190 million of us and every last one of us is liable to do something despicable for hot puff-puff.
So, this morning, as I walked to the gate of my estate, I wondered if I’d see puff-puff. I didn’t. Instead, what I found was even more stimulating.
It was a woman. She was sitting in a car, a blue Toyota Matrix. The car was parked by the gate. A bright yellow TAXI sign sat askew on the roof of the car. I walked to the car, tentatively, not sure why a woman was sitting in the driver’s seat of a taxi.
“Taxi?” I said to her, like ‘is this for real? Are you trying to prank somebody by sitting in a taxi, pretending to be a cab driver?
But she said, “Yes. Taxi. Where do you want to go?”
“Are you the driver?”
“Yes?” It was one of those answers that sound like questions.
I gave her my destination and took the other seat in front, next to her. There were three handpainted porcelain statuettes glued to the dashboard: Jesus, Mary the mother of Jesus, and Michael the archangel. I knew them because I used to be Catholic.
Then, with nothing else to ponder, I asked her to tell me her life story. Question Number 1: Why would someone this attractive, with an undeniable air of sophistication, be a taxi driver in this Lagos?
“Aww, thank you for the compliments,” she said. “But this was the only job I could find.” She told me how she’d been divorced for 11 years. With four kids. One of those kids, the oldest, was now a uni graduate. The next one was now a uni freshman. “I have to do something to make ends meet,” she said.
But I couldn’t stop wondering. By the time she switched on the engine, I had a long questionnaire perched on the tip of my tongue.
I reeled out question after question: Some would say taxi driving is not a job for a woman, especially in this Lagos. Wouldn’t you sta– “Nope,” she shot back. “Anyone can drive Taxify.”
When do you close? “Most days, like 9pm.”
Don’t you feel frightened at night? “Of course, I do! But this is my job now. I’d rather do this for myself than stay married to a man who would be beating me. I like the peace of mind I get from having a job and being able to provide for myself.”
For a moment there, guilt seized me on behalf of my kind.
How long have you been a cab driver? “Two years, going on three now.”
But you don’t look like someone who has a child that just graduated uni. “People say that. But I got married early. Very early. Had my first child at 20. I’ll be 41 this year.”
I have to say: the hardship you describe doesn’t show on your face. “Ha. I cannot wear my stress on my face na. God knows what I’m going through and only He can help me. Also, I make sure I take a full day for myself, just to sleep.”
How long will you do this taxi driving for? “I’m hoping I won’t have to do it for more than another year. I want to have a shop and sell provisions.”
Wow. I’m blown away. “Well. You may be surprised if I tell you this car is on hire-purchase. It’s not been easy. But I can see other women like me, some of them divorced as well, taking up this same Uber and Taxify.”
Do you do Uber, too? “Yes. They’ll soon unblock me.”
They blocked you? But why? “I cancel a lot. I try to have a strategy with my movement so I cancel a lot. That’s why they blocked me.”
It was a short trip but because I hadn’t called her with the Taxify app, we’d had to agree on N1K, which, in the light of the shocking and inspirational story she just gave me for free, I felt compelled to pay her more.
It’s amazing the meanings we can find in our own life when we take a glance at other people’s lives.
I got out of the car and wished Ada the very best. You’d probably do the same, too.
*In Naija, okada is motorcycle taxi.
P.S: That’s definitely not Ada on the Cover of this story.
P.P.S: You should share this post with someone.