There is always that one day.
That day when something happens that you thought could never happen to you even if you were blind, dumb and stupid. And then it happens and you are suddenly stuck between the devil and the deep blue sea, in dire need of a saviour of sorts.
Well, let me start from the beginning.
A former boss of mine, who is now a client of ours, recently returned from the UK and asked for a meeting on the island. The meeting was awesome and so was the food and the Givenchy collection I got as a what-did-you-bring-back-from-UK gift, and so I lost track of time and it got pretty late before I set out back to my base in Ikeja. I couldn’t really predict the traffic situation going back to Lagos mainland, so I decided to stop at the gas (petrol) station to get some fuel. Cut the long story short, I spent the N2,000 I had in my wallet on the purchase and decided that I would probably stop at an ATM on my way home to get some more cash. So I got into my car and faced the road, back to the mainland.
As I drove past Lekki Phase One, I made a mental note to turn after the Toll Gate to use my bank’s ATM just before The Palms to avoid stories that touch. And then the two words hit me as I began to see several rear lights from cars in front of me in what looked like a queue. Toll. Gate.
Yeeepa! I was driving towards the dreaded Lekki Toll Gate without a kobo in my wallet.
Believe me; I wanted to park, reverse, and use the loo all at once. But if you know that place very well, the speed with which people drive towards that toll gate does not support such adventure.
I began a frantic search for all the loose change I usually dump here and there in my car but they had all gone on some form of vacation. Then I began searching all the compartments of my wallet. Finally I found money. A $1 bill. Must have been a left-over from my oko-iyawo exploits at my traditional.
Anyway, I had to think of a plan and quickly too because the queue of cars seemed to be moving very quickly towards the toll plaza.
Should I form returnee who has no idea about the existence of this Toll Gate not to talk of having naira to pay? I don’t even have an accent to start with and I’m not driving a Range like my former boss who I just visited or an Element like Chude. Oh God, why?
Well… the truth will set me free. Or so I thought.
Quickly, it was my turn and then the guy in the toll cabin stretched forth his left hand and I stretched out the dollar.
“We don’t accept that, sir,” he said. Courteously, actually. I’m sure he thought I would simply retreat and produce a naira note. For where?
“Mehn, my hand don fall,” I thought and then said, “You know what? I don’t have any naira notes on me, I had totally forgotten about this toll gate because I moved out of here over a year ago…”
“There’s nothing I can do, sir,” he said cutting my long story short.
By this time car horns were already blaring. Trust Lagosians. I muttered a prayer to God. “Help me Lord.” I put both my hands on my face and wiped it clean. What do I do?
“Okay, so what do we do now? I seriously do not have any naira notes on me here.”
“Well, let me call one of the policemen to handle the situation,” he said. This time, rudely, hissing repeatedly.
My heart began to beat at the sound of ‘policemen’. But I thought I was a man. Why am I afraid of Police? The issue wasn’t the policeman or men; it was actually the fact that I would be embarrassed this much because of a mere N120. If only these people could follow me to the ATM to see my bank balance, a stupid thought ran through my mind.
By this time, folks were already knocking on my window to ask what the problem was. I didn’t roll down the glass. I just waved the dollar bill at them and then heard things like, “Dollar ni were gbe dani sha”, meaning the mad man has dollar notes sha, while others said things like, didn’t you know you were coming to a toll gate and all the other foolish things people say when you delay them in Lagos.
I increased the air-conditioning in my car.
One part of me hoped it would help to cool the policeman who was coming to arrest me down a bit when he entered my car and another part hoped it would cool me down as well.
Almost ten minutes later, I saw the police man approaching. A Mobile Police man. The End. My heart began to beat faster as I opened the door and he got in. My tongue received a divine touch and I began to blab:
“Oga, please, I don’t have any naira here, not that I can’t pay the money, I totally forgot, I don’t live here, I have money in my account, if you can follow me to that ATM, I will withdraw the money and give you, I am not…”
“It’s okay!” he shouted.
I kept mute.
He came out of the car, collected the ticket from the toll fellow, paid him and gestured to me to go.
I couldn’t believe myself. I should go?
“Oga, you can go,” he said again.
Is he for real? Well, I decided to leave before he changed his mind.
The only reason I didn’t come out of my car to hug him and thank him properly was because the people who were behind me on the queue would finally get the opportunity they had been waiting for, to lynch me. I thanked him frantically as I zoomed off.
But, then I learnt a really big lesson. Two, actually.
This write-up originally appeared on ynaija.com (July 30, 2012).