Monday, 5 May 2014

Why Are The Elderly Lagos Cab Drivers (I’ve Encountered) So Angry?

Disclaimer: This piece is totally my observed and lived experience. I do not aim to generalize, so when I say “they”, I’m simply referring to the majority of the ones I’ve encountered.  I have driven with the mid-aged and the elderly and the difference in attitude is blindingly clear. Please feel free to share your conflicting or similar experiences.

Img:   4th May '14

In the past 4 months, I ridden in Lagos cabs enough times to recognize that perceived safety and security considerations aside, I would much rather enter a cab driven by a young or middle aged man, than I would, that of an elderly man.

Why? You may ask? It's simple. A large majority of the elderly ones I’ve encountered just seem so angry! And I really hope someone could tell me why. This anger I'm talking about is not just a mere scowl on the face. No. I'm talking about passive-aggressive anger, active-aggressive anger (if there's anything as such) condescending anger, angry at nature anger, angry at other people anger, angry at clients anger. Perhaps, submerged in this murky, slimy, rancid well of anger, there lies somewhere, an angry-at-self anger. Perhaps.

Mostly, I attempt to understand it. Sometimes, I rationalize to understand it. Other times, I ask to understand it. Eventually, I find myself abandoning my quest to understand it. Yet I remain curious. If you're still in doubt, let me describe to you, this anger that I am talking about:

Case 1: They seem mad at you

The initial contact, what ought to be an exchange of pleasantries, is anything but pleasant. An “ekaaro sir”, is immediately met with a grunt or a ‘kaaro’ with a scowl on the face. Fare bargaining is a whole ‘nother ball game. A difficult process on its own is made even more difficult with an attitude that seems to say ‘how dare you this girl challenge the price that I’m calling for you? Take it or leave it’ Then, there are times when mid-way into the bargaining, they just go silent and act as though they can’t hear you. How frigging rude!

Now you get in and the car radio is turned up so loud, you can’t hear yourself think. If a call comes in and you dare to take excuse to turn the music down a bit, you are sure to be shot a ‘dirty look’ loool. And you can bet that as soon as that call is over, you will definitely be re-assaulted with the same radio turned up to the same volume or even louder. (humming, ray-dee-o lagosi, tiwa n tiwa ni-tee-tee!)

If you happened to have made a prior arrangement with them, to be picked up at a particular time and they are late in arriving, (to be fair though, those occasions have been rare) you are certain to be greeted with an excuse, NEVER an apology. Perhaps there is the notion that apologies must only flow one direction – from juniors to seniors.

Case 2: They seem mad at other road users

To the female car driver who has the misfortune of being young and driving a fairly nice car, you’ll do well to steer clear. Please don’t cross their path or drive as aggressively as they do lest you run the risk of being labeled an oniranu, omo buruku, ashewo. Then, there are the personal drivers who cruise in their ‘big’ cars and dare to challenge these dear taxi drivers. They are not exempt from this anger. Try to battle it out with them on the road and you are bound to have words, angrily spat to the effect of “I pity you. With your oga’s car that you are using to shakara all about. Driver lasan laasan. Scratch my car and I will use your eyes to see mabo”. For people who they consider to be married women, they can tolerate their perceived silliness after all “it is your husband who put car seat under your bum bum that I blame” Even commercial bus drivers are not exempt. There is this air of superiority that can be felt when they hurl obscenities at the bus drivers as though to say “after all, I am a step up from your level”.

This anger runs deep. This anger is vicious. This anger is real.

Case 3: They seem mad at life.

The only thing I’m going to say about this is, Pray, tell me who wishes to spend an hour long journey listening to complaints and frustration at whatever news of the day that’s blaring from the car radio? Day to day living is frantic enough. The least one can expect is some silence and sanity on the journey to the next hustle. Polite conversation is one thing. However when a journey is turned into a laborious half lamentation, half therapy session, well, that is something entirely different.

So, I threw this question open to my friends and got some really interesting responses. A big majority of them felt the question was hilarious and lol-ed through it all. To all my fellow lol-ers, I lol and smh together back at you. One major theme stood out though, from the answers of those who responded. Many seemed to think this anger springs from the fact that many years ago, a number of them did not think they would be driving cabs in their old age.

To this, my response is: fair point, well made. My question though, is, should we automatically be accepting of whatever comes our way when someone who has a disappointment or regrets acts it out on one? Understanding, yes. But accepting on a consistent basis? I don’t know, really. And this is not just with regards to cranky cab drivers, but speaking generally. I believe each and every single one of us has our disappointment and regrets. What many do, is suck it up and move on. Does the coming of age equate a growth of bitterness? Or it is when the finality of life dawns? Basic two-way respect is the least gesture that should be offered and expected of any relationship be it work, family or personal. I speak honestly when I say that it is not in any way, my intention to trivialize the pains, trials or tribulations of any person. Pain is real. Disappointment is real. Ultimately though, attitude is always a choice.