I felt a pain start at my right temple. Running my fingers over the area, I felt a slight bump which hurt and I winced.
A stress pimple.
The music playing in the car mingled with the blaring of horns and other noises coming in through the window and set off a dull throbbing in my head. I reached forward and turned the radio off. That took care of one source of irritation.
A sea of red lights spread out in front of me, snaking on as far as I could see in the gathering dusk.
I had been in the traffic for almost five hours, and at that spot for one hour – even though it felt like ten hours.
I heard on the radio that the traffic was cause by flash floods in the Ikorodu area, so we were in for the long haul.
My back hurt, my right knee and ankle hurt, and when I shifted my weight from one butt cheek to the other, I set off the headache again. I pressed my eyes shut and rubbed my temple, passing my fingers across the pimple. My eyes watered and I cursed.
I felt a cool wetness hit my elbow where it was sticking out the open window of the car, then another, and another. I did not have to look to know the rain had started again.
I wound the window all the way up as fat pellets disintegrated against the windscreen.
I looked at the fuel gauge and despair set in. The needled rested just above the E, and as I looked, it seemed to bounce a little before settling lower.
I would have to turn on the air conditioner soon because the windscreen was beginning to fog up.
Hulk, my Toyota Corolla, is very fuel efficient but I knew that would not matter once I turned on the air.
The blinking red light of my Blackberry caught my attention and I picked it up. It was a message from my boyfriend. He wanted to know where I was and how I was faring.
Whenever I got a message from him it brought a smile to my lips, but this evening that smile was strained.
I hit the quick dial and listened to the burr-burr as the phone rang at his end. He picked on the second ring and I figured he must have paused the game he was playing to take the call.
‘Hey babes, how are you?’ He asked, his voice excited.
I told him my predicament and his concern was immediate.
‘Do you think I should park the car here and go for fuel?’ I asked him.
‘Where exactly are you?’
‘I just passed Barracks and have been on the bridge the past fifteen or so minutes.’
‘There’s a filling station on Ikorodu road and, if you don’t use the A/C, the fuel you have should take you there.’
‘I know, but I’m looking at this traffic and I don’t know if the fuel will take me that far. Besides,’ I said looking at the dashboard clock, ‘ they may have closed before I get there. But I just passed a filling station before climbing the bridge and they’re open. It’s on the other side of the road sha.’
He was quiet a moment.
‘Do you think the car’ll be safe?’ I asked him, voicing a concern I was sure he was contemplating.
‘It should be, but LASTMA can come and impound it. Do you see any of them around?’ He asked. ‘They’re usually around to help with traffic at times like this.’
‘One just passed me now,’ I said following his train of thought.
‘I wish I was there with you.’ He said with feeling.
‘Me too. I’ll keep you posted bae.’ And then I hung up. I knew he meant that, but the fact was: he wasn’t there with me and I had to get a move on.
I put on my hazard lights, stepped out into the rain, locked the car doors after putting my bag in the boot, and ran after the LASTMA official.
When I caught up with him I explained my situation to him. I don’t know what I was expecting, but it wasn’t what he did next.
He walked with me to the car, advised me to put off my blinkers so I don’t run down the battery. He then stood sentry beside Hulk while I went across the road for fuel.
Without a gallon of my own, I begged the filling station attendants for a container I could carry the fuel in, and they gave me a gallon. One of them even offered to go to my car with me, but I assured him I was fine.
At the car, the LASTMA official helped me pour the fuel into the tank, and when I tried to thank him with a carefully folded appreciation note, he declined. It was then I looked at his name tag: Jimoh R.
He stayed with the car while I returned the gallon to the filling station. The attendant who had offered to go with me came to meet me halfway. He took the gallon from me and jogged away.
Mr Jimoh was still there waiting when I got back. He made sure I was safely inside the car before he turned and walked back in the opposite direction.
It was not lost on me that the people who helped me were men. Did they help me because of my gender? Did they help me because of my humanity and obvious distress?
I believe it was for the latter reason; I believe in human angels.
So this is my thank-you note to all the unsung heroes around us: filling station attendants, police, LASTMA officials, all of them.
PS: Okechukwu Ofili inspired me to write this post, and the best part, it is a true story.