The bus was running late on a cold and snowy winter evening . Quite a decent crowd had gathered as a result. We didn’t have a car at the time but generally didn’t let this stop us from going out to explore the city.
A month before I left Nigeria, I was working in a densely populated area of the country called Sango-Otta. Decorum was neither expected nor needed. Traffic was heavy and the town never went to sleep. At 1 a.m, you could still find people going about as if it was daylight. The buses only slowed down for passengers to alight or board. They rarely ever fully stopped. You had to shove and push through to get on to the bus. I hated this way of life initially as i had grown up in a more laid back city where life was a bit slower. However, with time, i adapted, thrived and even grew to love it.
Now back to my snowy evening. A few minutes later, the bus arrived and we all clustered around the entrance. My Nigerian ‘fight instincts’ kicked in and I started to shove my way through to the front. My husband figured out what i was up to a little too late. Everyone simply stepped aside for me and where i had expected resistance, I saw everyone giving me a look i would come to understand over the years meant ‘crazy black woman’. In a very slow and orderly manner, the rest of the crowd filed in. My husband of course was one of the last to come in. Thoroughly embarrassed i must say by his crazy wife.
So I learnt. In these lands, order exists. Queues are not jumped. No one enforces people to abide. They just do. They offer their seats to the elderly, the little children(yes! kids do not vacate seats for adults as we do in Nigeria), the pregnant women and the disabled. Decorum is the watchword.
After all these years, I still itch to shove and push when i see 30 people ahead of me on a queue anywhere. I still itch to run across the road instead of using the traffic light but I have learnt to control that itch.