Still marking the first anniversary of my passing out from the National Youth Service Corps, here’s another note I wrote long ago about the awkward things that happened to me during my service year.
It was one awkward or weird experience to another throughout my NYSC year. It was as if the one week of horror in camp wasn’t enough view post; (falling down during parade inspection, getting rushed to the clinic on the last Sunday of camp along with other crap that came with life in camp) It seemed like each week after camp came with its own drama.
In August 2011, I was yet to get a place to stay in Ogun State, so I had to stay in a friend’s place in Lagos from where I went to my place of primary assignment. I remember one evening, my friend and I entered a bus to Lagos and it turned out we were in for a lot of adventure as both the driver and conductor decided to catch their fun picking on passengers and other road users. It got to its peak when the driver parked at the middle of the road to obstruct a tricycle rider so the conductor could beat some sense into his head, while the driver stole into a nearby shop to get a few shots of dry gin. I didn’t wait for the bus to park fully before jumping out of it when I got to my bus stop. Boy! it was one hell of a trip. I had my heart in my mouth all through the ride, not with the way the driver drove as though he was immune to accident.
Then came the time I had to go through the hell of house hunting. I saw things! Holy Molly! From structures (I can’t even call them buildings) not worthy to be called a home to dilapidated structures house-agents believed were befitting edifice for human habitation. Or was it the terrible grammar spoken by one of the boldly outspoken, so called graduate of law now turned house-agent I had to endure while he spoke ill of corpers to our face? He kept saying corpers always want something too beautiful or modern, (as if it was a crime to have a good taste) ignoring the fact that we were his clients and he had to treat us nicely.
The week I finally got a beautiful apartment in an estate, my friend and I went to clean up the place a week after payment. On our way home, I led us through a new path because I felt we should discover the area and more importantly, shorter routes to the estate gate. Little did I know I was leading us through a path we termed ‘the road to hell’. We walked briskly, enjoying new sites and places that would be of interest later on when we finally moved to the area. We smelt trouble when we had to cross a river using a locally constructed bridge. It was a straight road but then it led us to the other side of town. So much for finding a shorter route! We had to start asking around before finally getting a motorbike to take us back into town.
Then came the second payment of allowance; first payment was done in camp for the month of July. As fresh otondo’s (what corpers are generally referred to), we didn’t need any clearance for the second payment, so everyone’s allowance ought to have been paid but then again, it seemed my misfortunes from camp were still following me as mine wasn’t paid and I had to write an application letter before it was paid well after almost everyone had forgotten they were paid August allowance.
The month of September started on a good note but the last week turned out to be a terrible one as the transformer in the estate got bad. I had to do a week and three days without light. My landlord chose a perfect time to travel abroad leaving us to our fate as he normally used his generator to pump water. The Sunday he left, the house manger came over to take his generator and removed the phase promising that it wouldn’t affect my apartment’s light but alas! It did.
A few days later the transformer was fixed but my side didn’t have light. I called the manager that Friday evening and he promised to come the following Sunday as he was not going to be around on Saturday. I decided to be patient, but he didn’t show up on Sunday. I called him. He promised to come on Monday saying he couldn’t find the keys to the protector.
I had no water in the house. I couldn’t take my bath, which of course meant no work. I stayed home waiting patiently till it began to seem obvious that he wasn’t going to come.
Like they say, necessity is the mother of all inventions. My brain went to work, thinking of how I was going to get out of that situation. An idea came to mind. I thought it over with my friend, Yomi, who came visiting. He didn’t buy my idea but chose to help fetch water from my neighbor’s place.
I went on with my mission impossible. I tied the phase with a rope firmly to a long stick, stretched my arms through the protector but my hands weren’t long enough.
I waited for Yomi to return with the jerry-can of water. I told him to try it, since he is taller than I am. After several attempts we got it in. The manager did not bothered to call me to find out what happened till well after three weeks when he finally came to fix the light, because the landlord was coming back to Nigeria.
The next situation was the infamous drama at work which I wrote about in my previous note.
The following week, PHCN decided to hold power for that week and I was back to scarcity of water. This time my roommate, Temple, had his thinking cap on when the water in the tank ran out. He woke up one early morning, pacing about the house. I knew he was up to something.
He went into the kitchen and came out with the kettle. I stayed quiet watching him. He tied a rope to our kettle with which he used to draw water from a small opening beside the place where the pumping machine was placed. But of course, this was not to last as I ended up throwing the kettle into the hole mistakenly on the third day.
Funny, it was the same day light came.
Finally, what made me write this note was the incident of Sunday the 23rd of October 2011. That day’s incident was hilarious, though scary at first. It happened after church. I and my roommate went to different churches. I left the house first, since my church service started early. We planned that he’d keep the key in a tractor which had been parked in front of our house for God knows how long, just in case I came home before him.
That was the very first time we would keep the keys there. It so happened that immediately after coming out of the street beside my house, I looked up with my eyes focused on the abandoned tractor, only it wasn’t there anymore!
It was gone and so was the key to the house.
Next my gaze went to the gate. The padlock was firmly in place. First thing that came to my mind as I stopped right in my track was a joke my roommate and I shared two weeks earlier, when we complained about our continued postponement of duplicating the keys.
He suggested we keep the keys in the tractor on the days we would be going different places. I jokingly teased that the day we put it there would be the day the owners would take the tractor away. That’s exactly what had happened!
Several thoughts raced through my mind as I approached the place where tractor once stood. Of all days, I least expected it to be moved on a Sunday. I reached for my phone and dialed my roommate’s number hoping the tractor was moved before he left home. I called several times but there was no response.
I stood praying that God should please perform a miracle and help me find the keys on the ground, hoping maybe they fell off the tractor. I searched the ground still calling my roommate whose phone seemed to be on silent mode.
God! This was just the height of all the drama. The next Monday I needed to be at work as I didn’t go through out the previous week. The only way out was to call the uncaring house manger, locate him wherever he was to get the spare keys. The padlock was not the type one could easily break. Even if I could go through the gates how on earth was I going to find a carpenter to jack the iron door of the apartment?
I kept roaming around my house, searching through the dry grasses for the keys, moving along the tracks of the tractor’s large tires.
A thought hit me. I began to trace the tractor’s tire marks. I walked hurriedly just in case it was still on the road. I had little hope of finding it as I didn’t see any tractor on my way back. I increased my pace, my fingers still dialing my roommates number at every interval, while concentrating on my search for the keys on the road.
Fear of sleeping outside began to loom as it seemed my tractor hunting was going to be futile.
I heard a loud roar of an engine in the distance. My senses became alert.
A few more quickened steps and behold there it was. I could see its warning lights blinking from afar. My phone firmly pressed against my ear, with my right hand still trying to get in touch with my roommate and my left hand clenching my bible and writing materials firmly…
I ran after the tractor not paying a single attention to those looking at me. I ran with all determination of meeting up with the tractor before it drove out of the estate into the major road. My sweater which I hung across my shoulders flew in different directions as the wind cut past my sides.
There I was, chasing after the tractor like a madman. I caught up with the tractor. I greeted the driver through heavy breaths. I didn’t wait to calm myself down. I shouted on top of my voice several times. The tractor engine drowned my voice.
I pointed to the keys still lying on the tractor floor. He got the message and laughed. He could see I had been running. I panted heavily. He handed it over to me, saying he almost threw the keys out. I thanked him gleefully and headed back home, thanking God for yet another victory. I let out a good laugh immediately I opened the gates.
And the ‘infamous’ tractor was returned later that night….mtcheeew!
I wondered what the next episode of true life comedy would be. On the bright side, I just keep getting great stories out of each situation. God was always faithful to turn it around and calm the situation and at the end I always had a good laugh because that place was boring and it was those events in a twisted and weird way that brought activity and fun into my life, making me feel alive.