“Wuse Berger! Wuse Berger!! The conductor shouted, as the long coaster bus slowed to a stop.
A few of us standing at the bus stop rushed to board it, eager to get to our destinations on time and avoid the slightly uncomfortable heat of Abuja’s morning sun. We found seats and settled inside, except for one man. He stood by the rusty open door of the bus, hanging on with one hand.
“Oga enter inside,” the conductor snapped, glaring at him.
“I no go fit enter o,” he replied, chuckling.
“I no wan wahala this early morning,” said the driver.
“My conductor don tell you to enter inside. Enter inside or comot for my bus.”
“Make una no vex,” the man said, this time with a jocular laugh. “If una see wetin I chop this morning…beans with two eggs and the food get plenty pepper. The kind mess wey I go soon mess ehhh…make I just stand here, so that when I mess, breeze go carry am dey go.”
We all laughed as he continued to describe his meal in detail. The journey went well as the bus trundled along past Bulet to Finance bridge. I flinched as the driver finished drinking a sachet of water and tossed the empty bag out the window.
A few minutes later, he hawked, coughed in a vio-lent manner, and spat out a generous amount of yellow phlegm. Snatched by the force of the breeze, the phlegm went backwards, entered through the window two seats behind the driver, and splattered on the face of the woman seated there.
She was singing at the time. Some of the phlegm made it inside her mouth.
Oh, the screaaaammm she scrummed and scroomed!
Pandemonium erupted as the bus screeched to an abrupt halt. The woman was bleating like a beleaguered goat dragged outside for Christmas slaugh-ter. Men yelled and women screamed without knowing why. My stomach heaved but I swallowed hard, determined not to throw up.
“What’s the matter?”
“Driver what is it?”
“Conductor, open the door!”
“Madam shift, make I comot. I no wan die.”
The conductor was shoved aside as people rapidly exited the bus. The victim of phlegm was now having a full-blown breakdown. She sobbed and shrieked in turns as she vigorously brushed her face and lips with a patterned blue handkerchief. As if that wasn’t enough, she switched to the shawl around her neck.
I tried to explain what had happened to a fellow passenger but each time I opened my mouth, I saw an image of that hot mucus landing on her lips.
Some semblance of calm was soon restored as another passenger who’d seen everything, narrated what had happened, to the dismay of everyone and the remorse of the driver. Neither his apology nor the pure water someone gave her to wash up were sufficient to stem the woman’s tears. Someone offered to swap seats with her, so she could sit inside and he, next to the window.
The trip resumed not long after, and we arrived at our destination with no other mishaps.