Monday, June 23, 2014

Go Slow

Well, two out of six blog prompts isn't bad, right?

This week we're supposed to write about something that inspires us at post - and coincidentally I was about to write about one of my favorite new skills anyway.  So here it is, my moment of inspiration: Driving in Lagos

I don't know if you've ever googled Lagos, but what you'll find if you do an image search is 1) pictures of some beautiful place in Portugal that is also named Lagos, 2) pictures of slums, 3) pictures of this dude, and 4) pictures of traffic. Lagos is known for its epic traffic. There's even a highlife song about traffic jams, locally called 'go slows', by a well-known Nigerian musician, Fela Kuti.

At first I was very intimidated by the traffic in Lagos. I contemplated not buying a car - but that was sheer craziness. Your options if you don't have a car in Lagos (and work for the consulate) are a) walk or b) stay home. So I finally decided to buy a car and employ a driver. It worked out okay, but about 6 months in I found myself driverless and had to bite the bullet. I ended up taking Crash-Bang at about this time and found it incredibly empowering. So much so that I came back to Nigeria and immediately began driving myself all over the place. And it's been a blast.

I can honestly say that I enjoy driving in Lagos. I love that it's chaotic and that there are no rules. I may or may not have mastered the art of turning left from the right lane in front of people going straight in the left lane, 'double turning' (when the person who is attempting to turn is being a pansy so you have to edge out next to them and show them how it's done), using up two lanes for strategic purposes, driving the wrong way in traffic and lots of other, socially-unacceptable-in-the-US practices. And of course lots of useful skills that I can employ back home too - particularly parking backwards. All of these skills are just basic survival techniques here and I am by no means an exceptional or even aggressive (by Nigerian standards) driver.

Traffic tetris - the result of the traffic cop taking a quick break and every single driver flooding the intersection at once. Kind of impressive, no?

Driving in Lagos has taught me to be confident and not to sweat the small stuff. Someone just cut me off? Meh. He's just playing the game. While I've found Nigerian drivers to be aggressive in getting where they want to go they are also much less 'rage-y' than US drivers. And for what it's worth - I feel a lot less likely to be hurt in an accident here than back home - the speeds you can reach in Nigerian traffic make all these 'daring moves' pretty tame in reality. All it takes is a gesture (not the offensive kind) and some sign-language negotiation and other drivers will make space for you. I have yet to see that kind of relaxed approach in a traffic jam anywhere else.

So there it is. Come to Lagos and drive like god intended.


  1. This has me smiling! I've learned to love crazy, awful traffic for the same reasons. Having no traffic rules is really quite freeing, especially with slow speeds. I am curious if you have a theme song for driving in Lagos? If so, what is it? -- There has always been a song on the radio in each city that we have loved and cranked up and forever reminds us of a particular city's driving adventures. Misha's "Everybody's Gonna Love Today" puts me right back in Beijing. And here in Ankara David Guetta's "Shot Me Down ft. Skylar Grey" will always bring back the chaos of Turkish drivers/driving along with flashbacks of Mozambican drum rhythms and dodging potholes.

  2. Love it. Reminds me of Beijing!