I did it. I finally got my driver’s license. It had been a few months since I got back to Lagos, and another few months getting my head round the puzzling process of getting my driver’s license.
But it was finally over. At last I had my brand new Lagos driver’s license and could finally hit the roads on my own steam. In the few months I had been back I had seen all sorts of crazy driving but that was all going to change, I was going to show this town how to drive ‘properly’, use my indicators, obey traffic signals, give way at the roundabouts. You know, good driving.
I jumped into my lovely new Honda accord and went for a spin with my bro. As we cruised down Ozumba, the lights changed and I slowed down at the orange and stopped on the red because, you know, orange means stop too!
Blam!! A car ran straight into the back of me sending me forward (even with the handbrake on which I had properly applied). “Jiminy crickets,” I yelled!!! “Orange means stop!!!!,” I shouted out my window before coming down to inspect the damage.
“Na wetin do you!!! Why you stop???” “You no see say light dey orange??!!”, the irate driver of a 4x4 yelled as he advanced menacingly towards me. I adjusted my glasses nervously. “Did you not see the lights?”, I shouted back at him, the futility of my statement hit me right then as I dodged the traffic still flying past on what was now indisputably a red light. One passing vehicle even blared his horn in annoyance.
A policeman came by and had a look at the damage to my vehicle and looked at the 4x4 guy who was angrily getting back into his car and loudly concluded, “its no one’s fault, na accident”. I was dumbfounded.
Over the course of the next 2 months my car took a battering. I got pranged at the Lekki Phase 1 roundabout, I had my window smashed as I waited at a red light on Awolowo road, a public transport Danfo bus took off my side mirror on my way to work.
In all I had 7 ‘incidents’ in 3 months of conscientious and good driving. I paid for everything out of my own pocket. I have insurance and good comprehensive one at that but my excess is N50,000 and no one incident cost that much. So I wound up never using it. To be honest the stress of claiming put me off as well. I wouldn’t know where to start!
Fast forward 6 months and I am now a Lagos ‘vet’. You can find me most mornings flying down the wrong way of the street, sticking my head out the window and screaming wild eyed at motorists and pedestrians in my way. Traffic signals are now just pretty lights to me. Red amber or green I keep rolling. I’m slapping on the sides of vehicles, cussing and shouting, throwing offensive hand gestures with wild abandon.
I took my mother out to the shops the other day and she looked on in horror as I drove. “What??,” I said glancing at her as I raced at full speed into a roundabout. She shook her head and said “… you are really driving bad!”
That’s when it hit me… I was driving bad!! I was driving like I was Walter whatshisname. Wild and exciting but utterly dangerous. I had lost myself. As I was thinking about this, there was a loud Bang!! I had rear ended the car in front.
I quickly went into auto pilot. I jumped out of the car, and rushed at the driver in-front, grabbing hold of his shirt. I bunched it up in my fists as is traditional and went into histrionics. “You dey craze!!! You go pay for my car o!!”, I shouted. “ah no go ‘gree”, I added quite unnecessarily as the poor chap had said nothing.
I pressed my advantage. “See as you don dent my car”, I shouted! The front of my car was a mass of dents from all my previous mishaps and I had a hard time finding an appropriate dent. I pointed at them all. “See dis one, and dis one, and that one back there!”.
The guy gently extricated himself from my grip and pulled out his phone. As I ran around looking for phantom witnesses he calmly stood by the side of the road making a phone call. Within 10 minutes a hire vehicle had picked this guy up and left. A man waited with his vehicle until a tow truck came by and picked it up an hour later.
All this time I stood over a roadside mechanic as he banged speculatively at my engine and used words like fuel injector.
Two weeks later I got a letter from a company called Claims Handlers Direct ltd. They advised me that they were accident care and claims specialists and would be dealing with the whole claims process on their customer’s behalf.
In the end my insurance company had to pay for all the damage to that gentleman’s car, his hire vehicle costs and the costs of towing as a result of what they called my ‘negligent actions’.
I have gone into rehab now and am looking for a fresh start. I have taken a refresher course in driving and am trying to quit my old habits. I have signed up with those Claims Handler Direct people and receive useful tips on driving, roads and road traffic laws. I also go on their website and get twitter feeds on all the latest motoring developments.
Those guys take care of everything so you don’t have to worry about anything. I just wish I’d had all this right from the start, then maybe I could have stayed in the right lane instead of ...driving bad.
Suddenly the music gets louder and all the waiters stop what they are doing and begin clapping...