Taxis are one of the most useful elements you can think of for city residents. They always seem to know everywhere, they can be found at almost every street corner, they deliver you right to the doorstep of wherever you wish to go to and, unlike buses, you can actually doze in one and-get this-the driver will actuallywake you up when you get to your destination. Not a moment before and not a moment after. He certainly won’t elbow you awake with a cheeky grin and gleefully inform you that yes, this is indeed the last bus stop, three bus stops further than yours. Bloody buses.
Yes, a taxi is extremely convenient and ideally ideal. There is one cloud on the horizon of this realm of perfection. So heavy is this cloud, it is tantamount to three clouds. The tendency that taxi drivers have to be talkative has to be one of the greatest jokes life plays on us. There are some things more annoying than a cabbie that won’t shut up, I’m sure, but those things are a precious few.
One day, I had to leave work a few hours early because I had very unwisely gone to the dentist during my lunch hour (which turned into lunch three hours) and through the haze of pain and novocaine, I managed to stumble into a cab and after three labored tries, successfully communicate my destination. As I laid back, groaning, I shut my eyes and tried to mentally plead with the Lilliputian Nazis that were slamming sledgehammers into my jaw.
“Sister, this traffic na wa oh,” said the cabbie. I grunted in reply. Really, it was all I could manage, and I assumed he would pipe down since I said nothing.
Reader, I assumed wrong.
“Na this our government dey cause kata kata for us for this country,” he said. At the mention of the word ‘government’, my eyes flew open in horror. No, no, no, no, no, no. Not the government. Anyone who has ever had to listen to the ‘government’ speech from a cabbie/bikeman/welder/plumber can understand my panic. The speech only comes to an end when you press money into their hands and make a quick escape.
Let me not torture you as I was tortured. By the time we were turning into my street, I was staring desperately out of the window, scalding tears of rage rolling down my cheeks. He did not shut up for ONE second on this thirty-minute journey. The worst part was that he kept asking prompting questions, mentally elbowing me with “you get it?”s and “you know?”s until I gave another miserable grunt. I gazed at the back of his head and wished that he would lose his voice. I wished his children would be struck dumb. I wished he would have a lunch hour dental appointment with my dentist.
Another day, I went on a date with this seemingly nice chap and on our way back, we took this taxi with a seemingly-quiet driver. We gabbed on, date and I, with the mutual but tacit understanding that we would lock lips sometime during the ride. I was all but quivering with anticipation: me, on a proper date in this Nigeria where people just fall into a relationship, and the (very good-looking)guy was going to kiss me in the cab. I could have sighed out loud with the romance of it all.
All went smoothly until I had the ghastly misfortune of catching the cabbie’s rheumy right eye in the rearview mirror. I took the mistake to a higher level by smiling broadly at him (in my defense, I was giddy from the whole day and smiled broadly at even the police officer that relieved us of two hundred naira, but still.) Immediately, that accursed right eye lit up.
“You are the carbon copy of my daughter,” he croaked.
My broad smile wavered. If his daughter looked anything like him, this was not a compliment.
“Really?” I murmured.
“You don’t believe?” he cackled, feeling about in his glove compartment with one hand until he produced a stack of photographs and tossed them over his shoulder into my lap.
At this point my date was looking incredulously at the old man, who, oblivious to our astonishment, launched into an epistle about his paragon of a daughter. How she lost a tooth at five, how she cooked a bird at twelve, how she went to Gabon at sixteen, how she’s doing her youth service at eighteen. I hated the overachieving little cow by the end of the night.
But my poor date. As the old man waxed more and more poetic about his offspring, my date’s face got stonier and stonier. When the old man produced achievement certificates for us to coo over, my date handed them to me with hands shaking with fury. The moment the cabbie pulled up to my hostel door, I scrambled out, intended kiss forgotten. Heck, I almost forgot my leftover popcorn in my hurry. I left them there, faintly hearing the cabbie describe a special stew his daughter made him and made a swift escape.
Talking cabbies, if you ask me, should be outlawed. These people have the ability to drive a toddler to drink. After a hard day’s work, peace still eludes you at the back of a cab. And these are men. I shudder to think of what might ensue if I stumble across a female taxi driver. Now, they’re not all bad. Or so I hear. I still patiently wait for that one day when I will enter a taxi and be treated to blissful silence all the way. Certainly, this cannot be too much to ask.