Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The 63rd good thing about Lagos: At times, you can feel like a celebrity

I'm home in comfortable Houston, where I can brush my teeth with water from the sink. Such things you learn to appreciate after living in Lagos. My trip home was long (about 28 hours door to door) but without incident. Traveling to the airport in Lagos was the most nervewracking, where we encountered some quite extensive "go-slows." But I traveled in comfort and style, unlike most of the other travellers on the road that night. In Lagos they do have some public buses like what we are accustomed to in the US. But most people taking public transportation travel in vans that in the States would hold a maximum of 12-15 passengers. In Lagos these often appear to be near to falling apart and they are usually crammed and bulging with travellers. They generally have 5-6 rows and people at least 4 across, and sometimes with a second layer of people on top of those. On the road that night I saw a number of buses (what we call vans) with the door open and people hanging out as they drove. (These pictures were taken earlier -- I was traveling to the airport at night).
I was the only company person going to the airport that night, but I had 6 men accompanying me: the driver and an accompanying security guy in the armoured car I was in, and an escort car with 4 men (I think one was a company driver that needed a ride....) and I don't know how many machine guns. It was useful at times to have the escort car with its police lights that encourage other cars to move over and let us through. The drivers also make liberal use of their horns. But in some kinds of traffic, even police lights and horns won't help you move. There's an intersection approaching the airport area where there is a road to the domestic terminal that crosses the road we were on to the international terminal. The roads each have probably 3 lanes in each direction (though traffic lanes here are very flexible), so there is at least 6 lanes of traffic crossing another 6 lanes. Although there was a booth for a traffic policeman, he was off duty at the time, and there was no stoplight or any other traffic regulation. The intersection was hopelessly gridlocked with cars facing every which way and it seemed that no driver was willing to give any ground to anybody else. I was really wishing I had access to my camera at this moment. One of my security guys finally got out and held cars back with his hand and got others moving so after 10-15 minutes of just sitting in place, we were finally able to creep through the intersection. I'm very grateful that I can travel to the airport in style and comfort!

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