Our driver was recovering faster than anticipated. The cool, Abuja air gushing in through the open windows assured him that he had indeed escaped frog-jumps, delays and probably a night or two feeding some mosquitoes in a guard-room somewhere.
He sped down the freeway, his thoughts obviously in a whirl as he snuck repeated looks over his shoulder at phone lady AKA Civil Defence Officer. I could practically hear him wondering if he could get away with giving her a piece of his mind for scaring him like that.
In the end, he was too chicken-hearted to dare: she was a woman in uniform after all and she had indicated that her bus-stop was Sauka. For those who don't know, Sauka is a bus-stop located around airport road in Abuja and it is directly opposite a Civil Defense office which means it's always teeming with officers. He didn't want to try rubbish in case he got to the bus-stop and she called the calvary.
The other passengers seemed to be in a similar quagmire. They wanted to also give phone lady a piece of their collective minds for the HBP and heart palpitations she had caused them but they managed to restrain themselves; again, because of her uniform.
I'm fairly certain I was the only person grinning in the entire vehicle; I caught a few evil eyes cast my way in proof of that fact. Civil Defense was probably having a good chuckle too but she wisely kept it on the inside. As we crossed airport enroute Sauka, it was as quiet as a church in the taxi. Given the continued grin on my face, I'm sure everyone thought I was in cahoots with Civil Defense. I wasn't, I didn't know her from Adam. Anyway, try as I might, I couldn't stop smiling Coz I'm one of those people who enjoy watching high drama with a happy ending.
One time the driver cast an evil eye at Civil Defense via his rearview mirror but she pretended not to see. She wasn't looking around anymore but staring straight ahead. She seemed comfortable meeting only my gaze; her only fan.
The driver maintained his cool, and the effort visibly cost him. Apparently as he replayed the events, he became more pissed by the way he had been reduced to begging her to end her call. Why didn't she save his ego by informing him of the Esprit thingy? He probably felt she had tampered with his masculinity and machismo in some way. 😎
By the time we reached Sauka, his jaw was clenched with impotent fury and he was quivering again; this time with ill-suppressed ire.
Civil Defense alighted from the car and blithely whipped out a thousand Naira note which she proceeded to wave under the driver's nose.
The man was beside himself.
"Oppicer, but how you go give me N1,000? Your money naa N50!"
The woman looked down her nose as she informed him in the haughtiest tone I had ever heard; "That's what I have. Unless you want to leave the money for me."
I lost my smile at that one as her ajebo certificate was crudely ripped in two before my eyes.
"How you go say make i leave money for you? No be work I dey so?" He shot back. His wariness and fear of her uniform had evaporated at the thought of losing his hard-earned N50. Yes ma'am, the hustle is real. Don't mess with a taxi driver's take-home.
I cheerfully offered the driver two N500 notes to change her money, smiling like the good girl I'm not. He collected it with a grateful glance. Two other passengers immediately gave him smaller denominations as well. In less than five seconds, he had N950 which he handed gleefully to her through his open window.
Civil Defense glared at me quickly realising she had been betrayed by her only fan. I wasn't fazed. I gave her a blank stare that would have done Barbie doll proud. If you know me, then you know injustice gets my back up. I could see humor in scaring the driver at a checkpoint but I failed to see the humor in cheating him of his money especially since I had seen a N200 note sticking out when she pulled out her ID Card earlier.
Seeing she hadn't managed to cow me, she turned and sauntered away.
As our taxi pulled away from the curb, our driver launched into a tirade about bullies in uniform.
Other passengers had apparently recovered their powers of speech.
"Naa waa ooo. The woman been get plan," the man in front began.
"So she want make driver dash am N50?" Someone else asked rhetorically.
"Her plan no go work," the other passenger declared.
I silently listened wondering all the while why uniforms seemed to protect their wearers more than the public.
The morale of the story? When it comes to his money, the "bloody Civilian" will often quickly forget his fear regardless of what apparel you have on. The common man will fight for his money more than for his human rights.
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