Just as I promised in this anniversary month, we have another guest commuter today, my really good friend, Enyima. Enyima has escaped the wahala of Accra and exchanged it for the wintry bliss of the UK, where she’s lived and worked for a couple of years. She has a good few stories of Transport for London (TfL) commutes, so if she’s good, maybe – just maybe – I’ll give her another chance. Comment as usual. Share it, and feel free to send me mail if you can. You’ll love this one.
I was tired. After a long day at work I had decided to take what I thought would be a time-saving detour home. Instead I found myself in a freezing cold waiting room at a train station a good few miles from my house. And by “waiting room” I mean a dimly lit brick structure with a single bench, no heating and the acrid smell of day-old urine emanating from all four of its corners.
You see, public elevators and waiting rooms are to the hooligans of Britain what the roadside gutters are to the desperate-for-a-pee tro-tro mates of Accra. But poor hygiene on public transportation is a gripe worthy of its own blog post – one which I may one day write (should Asomasi ever invite me back). I could rant for days just about the spitting on the bus!
Anyways, back to the story…
…So at last, the train I had been waiting for finally arrived (only 5 minutes late) and I fled the stinking waiting room and the chatty old lady who was insufficiently disgusted by the smell to be deterred from eating in there (ewwww). I hopped aboard the train and sank into the nearest empty seat with an audible sigh of relief. I was homebound! I could already smell the egusi and goat-meat stew my Nigerian housemate would probably be cooking for dinner (yummm).
As the train set off, I realized with joy that my seat was right above a heater. Glory Hallelujah! I slipped off my shoes and let the warm air thaw my freezing toes. I let myself relax, flicking through a newspaper someone had left behind and enjoying the elbow room that is the only comfort to the few poor souls travelling home after the sardinesque crush of rush hour.
All was well until I broke the number one rule of UK commuting – I made eye contact with a stranger – and with hindsight I couldn’t possibly have picked anyone worse. I still can’t remember what initially made me look up from the riveting story I was reading about Lindsay Lohan’s latest attention-seeking act of immense folly. My eye-contactee (I like to make words up) was about 21 years old, with a sullen, pock-marked face further disfigured by a multitude of unsightly brow, nose and lip piercings. His fraying black leather jacket had DEATH printed on one shoulder in hell-fire red, with other morbid images of bones, blood and gore dotted along its sleeves.
His movements – pick, sprinkle, roll, lick, seal – were carried out so calmly and methodically that it took me a few moments to realize what he was doing: rolling up his joints for the week (or by his dilated pupils, the night). The pungent smell of marijuana soon filled my nostrils and undoubtedly those of twelve or so the other weary commuters on our carriage, but no one had the strength or curiosity to even raise an eyebrow. I just stared at him with a mixture of awe and disgust, until a scowl so foul it could’ve scared a hippo out of the Serengeti was shot back in my direction. I quickly hid my face behind my newspaper, trying to continue my education in Lohanology where I had left off.
A few minutes after I was caught silently judging our budding drug-lord, the train manager announced my stop. I quickly gathered my belongings and, still using the newspaper as a shield, stepped off the train into the freezing rain, carefully picking my way across the icy platform to the station exit.
I looked back to make sure Mr Pierce McSpliffison had remained in his seat and wasn’t standing behind me with an axe in his hand, ready to turn me into a real-life version of the bloody skull on his jacket collar. To my relief he was where I had left him – on the southbound train rolling his joints, ready to flood the local marijuana market with enough stock to depress the price of a quick high for weeks.
So Asomasifo, there it is – an example of the kind of drama I face on my daily commute – hardly the gut-churning, temperature-raising, side-splittingly funny stuff Asomasi regales us with every week, but full of crazies in its own special way.
Oh, and this is my first ever blog post. I’d love to hear your feedback.