four wheels and a test…

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the stupidity behind the magic

So, I watch Top Gear Extra. A car programme on BBC that has proven among others that men are big babies with lousy tastes in cars. They show mad, mean machines struggling across and through terrains of rock, sand, ice and sometimes fire. The anchors, Jeremy, Captain Slow,  and a crazy unknown with relatives all over called ‘the stig,’ have driven just about every car that has every made or tried to make sense in the world.

  1. Jeremy Clarkson [once won the coveted award of the owner of the ugliest pair of boots in Britain],
  2. James May [a.k.a Captain slow as the name implies is that driver you honk and honk at but just remains slow! which is kinda ironic for a show about fast cars innit?]
  3. Richard Hammond [a.k.a hamster. little and picked on, goes behind the hangars to smoke and carvot with girls during talks] and
  4. The Stig. Let it be known at this junction that The Stig is one of the wonders of the Earth. From the past 17 series, we know it has three nipples, no voice and is convinced that the clouds are chasing it.

These three super-men and one driver-suit know just the buttons to push to get men emptying their wallets and breaking their kid’s piggy banks to get the car. Even in Nigeria.

It never occurs to these exhaust-fume happy people that these flat, smooth roads like the ones there barely exist in this part of the world (except Abuja. As far as I’m concerned Abuja is not part of Nigeria. Abuja has sunk away from the collective weight of the stolen money politicians there have stuffed in their agbada pockets).

Now, if you were to test a real workable car and not one of these lame fashion pieces that start falling off bit by bit after a year, everyone one knows the place to be is Nigeria. Lagos. A tarred road here and there can fool you into thinking this mega-city is New-York but a wrong turn and you discover the car testing centre this city really is…

THE CHRONICLES OF A LAGOS ROAD-USER

The average car-owner leaves home by six. He is first faced with road bumps and port holes to drive around, through or over. Since, Nigerians don’t know what a  zebra-crossing or an overhead bridge are really for, these holes and bumps help to make sure Nigerians don’t die. Port holes test the chassis strength and the shock absorbers, whilst the driver tests the strength of the car roof with his unprotected head and the strength of the seat-belt.

Up next, the danfo (public-transport buses). They are driven by ready-to-die men high on crack and stupidity (mainly stupidity). They appear from nowhere and if the brake is up to par and your emergency handling abilities are there. You’ll be alright. If not, the strength of the car’s body-work is what is next tested and the paint and how fast you can chase when they try to speed off. You see, In the danfo-driver-training-center , they have a daily mantra: “a scratch is only a scratch, but a lost passenger will never return.” Included in this group of the seriously stupid are the multitude of okadas (motorcycles) that skid in and out of traffic like ‘ racing game, then shout profanities at you when you dare step into the lanes they do not own. Then we have the pedestrians.  Far be it for them to use the bridges just above. To the pedestrian, the shortest distance across the express is dodging the lorry, screaming at the okada and being nearly run over by a danfo.

Oddly enough, an unexpected addition to this community is official police rides and the odd not-so-famous personality that Muritala Muhammed Airport spills out. For some reason, these two sets of ‘celebrities’ are always in a hurry to some big occasion or are too big to endure the traffic we’re forced to enjoy. I’ll go with the school of thought that they have serious under-G (top-secret) life and death matters to sort out. Honestly, I am so grateful to the police and the fact that they are so concerned about our over-all safety that whacking away at cars with their batons, making a general nuisance in the midst of tired people and kicking at drivers is over-looked as it is for the total and overall good 😉

Don’t forget the ever-present go-slow/ hold-up. The benefit of this long periods of pauses should never be overlooked. Houses have being furnished in Lagos traffic! There is nothing you cannot buy. Apart from the odd beef roll and drink, you can get shoe racks and paintings, Boosting the standard of living in the Nigerian economy by at least 2%.

God help you if that car is not comfortable…if on a normal day, the air-con doesn’t work and the radio doesn’t work. You are as good as being in a mobile coffin; a mobile coffin with hot ventilation. The main thing about this traffic  is that it follows law of deterioration the more time the car spends under the sun in one position, the higher the tendency that it’ll pull a tantrum (a tantrum is anything the car can and will eventually do that’ll make you uncomfortable or remove you, bodily, from the car). Example: over-heating, demise of the a/c, car lights can’t come on, wiper doesn’t work, electric windows don’t function anymore and the king of it all: engine can’t come on, so you have to come out in your suit and push!!!

Other tantrums are it’s making weird, loud noises; or it begins to spew exhaust like a chimney. You will earn the sneer of all other car owners.

However, rainy days are the true test of the car’s body work.

Ideal location: first/ second rainbow on the Oshodi express

Weather condition: after a rainfall.

The water rises to unknown depths and aquatic life forms have being suspected. A good car will not decide to wash your car carpeting no matter how dirty. Ironic, but true. The bad car however, will not only wash this carpet, it will steal some collectibles: dirt, water nylons, slippers.the bigger the thefts become, the higher the eventuality that you will abandon car and swim to shore.

Unexpected holes in the midst of this floods are kept as local community secrets in the hope that your car will be the one to fall in. In exchange for help in getting out of these holes, you pay. You could also just pay them straight-up. Honestly, they’ll lead you right over, not quite like Jesus or Moses, more like Jonah; wet, dirty, disagreeable but alive.

Christmas time especially, the average cultural family packs up and goes to the village for some reason. Boot and cargo-space is of prime importance. After the normal clothing have being stuffed in, they then stock up on food: Food for grand-pa, food for grand-ma, food for the un-married aunts, food for village neighbors, food for granny’s friends, food for the village-pastor, drinks for the village youths.

If you think I am talking about cute bars of chocolate and the odd KFC bucket, you are sadly deceived. I am talking, bags and bags of rice, living chickens, one goat. the rare vehicle that doesn’t need any rope to hold the boot together or hold something to the roof is king. On this voyage, the car is tested for its off-road capabilities in every sense of the word. As you drive away from Lagos to anywhere, the state of the road (which was not exactly perfect before) gradually deteriorates till it seems you are back in the Flintstone ages (which is over-stretching it because, even they had good roads), then its true power comes to play, through depths, over hills, through water… i have no idea why people do this village-paroles. It’s basically saying: “wow, during this time of the year that normal people are staying home and enjoying electricity, water and theatres; I will leave to a place of no power and water and celebrate with the mosquitoes. I will probably return with typhoid and my children will hate me but…”

In conclusion, if the car is as good as claimed, it should make it through a typical day in Lagos. And if it does, people will definitely trust that car when you write “… tried and tested in Nigeria.”

more info on stigs: 

Stigs are bred at the Top Secret Top Gear Farm, most are violent, or completely useless, having very small brains and worthless opinions.. Some have amazing talent, like painting and none has patience for the top gear folk. 

The hosts of the show will often introduce The Stig with something like: “Some say that his voice can only be heard by cats, and that he is banned from the city of hhvhvlhhv. All we know is… He’s called The Stig!” or “Some say he never blinks and that he roams local woodland foraging for mouse meat. All we know is, he’s called The Stig!” 

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