Thursday, August 17, 2006

The 12th good thing about Lagos: Varied shopping available from your car window on the Falomo bridge

Brent and I went out this morning with some company people to look at a residential building on the neighboring island of Ikoyi. There are a couple of bridges connecting Ikoyi and Victoria Island (VI), where the office and our current apartment building is. Ikoyi is a little less busy than VI and has some trees, which, for some people, makes it a more pleasant place to live. The biggest downside of living there would be the commute across the Falomo bridge. We were coming back across the bridge around noon, which is a very busy time to be on this road. Because there's such a bottleneck of traffic, the place teems with foot vendors which, naturally, compound the traffic tie-ups. These very brave and enterprising (and probably desperate) sellers weave between the cars and look to you inside your car, pleading with you to buy their wares. With some of them, a shake of the head is enough to make them move on. With others, they seem to be certain that if you are given the opportunity to look at their wares long enough, you will certainly see the value of buying from them. Here's a list of some of the items I could have purchased today crossing the bridge, though we had been on the bridge for about 10 minutes before I decided that I had to make a list and pulled out my paper and pen.

Things for sale today on the Falomo bridge:

1. car mats
2. knives
3. cellular phone cards to recharge your phone account -- these are for sale on every street in the city
4. books --one textbook on electrical engineering I've seen several times, also Covey's "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People" and "Who Moved My Cheese" -- many religious books like illustrated Bibles as well as children's books
5. pants
6. some interesting fake-bronze (maybe plastic?) sculptures -- the ones I looked at were of a golfer and a tennis player
7. sets of kitchen tools
8. individually wrapped cakes that look like Twinkies
9. bottles of soda and water
10. pens
11. CD rack
12. CDs and DVDs
13. bananas
14. picture frames
15. candy and gum
16. Wahl hair clipper sets
17. cleaning brushes of many varieties
18. a cutlery set with wicker holder
19. peanuts
20. Nigerian mens clothing
21. bags of potatoes
22. drink boxes
23. watches
24. suitcases
25. paintings -- on canvas and "special" ones on velvet
26. lighters
27. magazines -- including Vogue and Reader's Digest
28. tape measures
29. a hand riveter
30. wallets
31. cell phones
32. light bulbs
33. plantain chips
34. hats
35. toys
36. newspapers
37. rugby shirts
38. sunglasses
39. eye glasses
40. belts
41. clocks
42. tomatoes
43. potato chips

And in addition to the vendors, we have the beggars come to our windows with pleading eyes -- mothers carrying two small babies, one in front and one in back. Little children leading their blind fathers, people with missing limbs, today a little girl who walked along with us repeating "Master, please help me, master." We are advised to not give to the street beggars -- some of them are scam artists, borrowing children or the handicapped to prey on the sympathies of the public, and many of them are actually placed there by pimps who get most of their profits. But it is very difficult to turn my head and turn off my sympathies. I hope that while I'm here I won't lose my feelings of compassion -- I just know I'll have to find other ways to give.

As for the shopping, our driver says that for security reasons, as well as other reasons, we really can't buy anything from the vendors along the street. What lost opportunities! I'm still mulling over the value of that toilet seat I could have bought from the car last week -- you don't see those for sale every day!

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