Watch your Stance

So I was driving to work the other day, when I noticed my colleague in traffic.

Now, if you’ve never experienced Lagos traffic, you must! I firmly believe that it’s one of the undiscovered wonders of the world. It’s the only brand of traffic that I know of where you want a good meal before going in because you will probably be there a while. The only one that requires you to model other people’s behavioral patterns in a mental spreadsheet in a bid to try to figure out what they might do, while avoiding BRT lanes and looking out for Road Safety Officials and ‘LASTMA’ – because they have PhDs in wasting time for no reason, and also trying not yell at the crazy driver on your left or the street urchin on your right, and you’re doing this all bearing in mind that you cannot afford to hit the curb, another driver or any of the tricycles or motorcycles meandering through traffic daredevil style or worse still, become ‘laneless’.

Laneless. What does that mean? Is that a word? Not exactly. It’s a state of being. It occurs when a law abiding driver who was following the rules of traffic suddenly finds that there is no path in front of him. It usually happens because a crazy driver behind him decides that he simply cannot sit in traffic like everyone else and decides to form a third (or sometimes, fourth) lane on a two lane road. This means that traffic will need to merge at some point and the same crazy guy or another of his good friends decides that the best way to do that is to graft his way into an existing lane, cutting off law abiding individuals who were already on that lane. Laneless.

And that’s exactly what happened to me. I was driving in traffic when I saw my colleague, Travis (not his real name, obviously). When I noticed him in one of the side mirrors, I actually called him on the phone to tease him about his driving skills, and the words ‘when did you come to Lagos?’ may have come out of my mouth. Why did I do that? He stayed in a lane that appeared to be moving slowly. I seemed to be on a fast moving (relatively, at least) lane and he soon became just a blip in the mirror. The conversation moved on to other things, and I glanced in my side mirror and noticed his car inching towards me. I thought, ‘oh cool!’ and I may have mentioned it. But the next thing I know, the man was zooming past me. My surprise soon turned to confusion as I looked up and I was – you guessed right – laneless.

It was at this point that it occurred to me that for all my trash talking, I’m the one who ended up laneless – the one who was driving like I just came to Lagos. And then I was reminded about the warning issued to self-confident people, especially those who are naively self-confident: be careful. You’re not exempt. You could fall flat on your face as easily as anyone else. And I added to it: and trash talking beforehand makes it ten times as embarrassing.

This mental conversation happened in a split second and I proceeded to rectify my laneless-ness as I started considering strategies aimed at ending my trash talking ways.

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