I don’t like tests. Don’t get me wrong, I pass them. But I don’t like them. Reason? How does my answering them correctly indicate that I really know what I know? How do 5 sets of questions determine that I have really learnt what I was meant to over a period of time? What if I didn’t actually know the answers and only crammed them for the purpose of passing the test? I digress.
So about a week ago, I carried out a test of my own. Some kind of survey – let’s call it a driving test. It started when I mentioned in a Whatsapp status that I find it weird that when I’m driving on expressways linking two or more states, I rarely find women behind the wheel. But the moment I get into a state, women crop up almost one out of every two cars. So I carried out a survey – 12 women responded, all between ages Twenty-five and Forty-five. Four of those Twelve have been driving less than three years. Only one doesn’t own a car or drive. Only one doesn’t own a car but drives. Their reason, fear – fear of trucks and tankers, fear of bad roads, fear of car breaking down with no help coming, fear of commercial drivers. Truth be told, those Danfos and trucks can put the fear of God in somebody especially when they swerve to your lane and start saying “wo egbe e o” (watch your side o) while simultaneously hitting the side of their bus/trucks or just full out blaring their horns. But it’s my lane now, you think to yourself. Before you know it, they are right ahead of you threatening another car to wo-egbe-e-o as they move to take that space too. They are not okay walahi!
My friend Biona *not real name was heading to Surulere sometime ago. She prides herself on being street and strong-headed – one of those I-no-go-gree people. But the moment a truck blares its horn or she sees a trailer coming at full speed behind her, gra-gra don end. She swerves into the exit lane and parks the car. Then she waits an extra three to five minutes after the truck has gone to continue her journey.
The first time I stepped behind the wheel of a car was in Sagamu at one secondary school at High Court road. The next time I stepped behind a wheel was on Oda Road in Akure. My driving school instructor, let’s call him Baba, cramped 4 of us inside the car and gave us lessons while we all took turns to drive. Just before the roundabout towards Governor’s office, I was to exit the roundabout at the second turning and make my way towards a side road leading to Ijoka road. I nearly climbed the curb. My mistake was trying to figure out how to switch gears and still shuttle between brakes and clutch and the throttle. I looked down. Next thing, I was on the receiving end of a “Towa”. It was a hot slap that landed on the back of my neck. Anger rose up in me and tears sprang from the pain. I nearly retorted then I realized any comment I made at that time would have me “being referred home”. i.e. I would be regarded as a person with no home training for talking back or shouting at an elder. I held my tongue. Ah! The effort.
Back at the driving school, Baba said in Yoruba: A car is not something you pose with. It is a machine. It can kill. It requires a lot of responsibility – to you, to other road users, to the car. And one thing you don’t want to do when you drive is be afraid. You must have no fear when you handle a car. You must not panic. Behind the wheel, you must pack up your fears and throw them out.
Several times while living in Apapa, I snuck under a parked truck waiting for another truck to pass. Whenever that happened which was frequently, I was afraid. Every time I looked around me and all I saw was a sea of parked and moving 9ft 6inches high trucks and trailers, I almost pissed in my seat. So I psyched myself out of those fears. So a trailer is honking like a mad man. Ehn he should fly now. He sha won’t climb over me. Okay, Danfo is flashing lights behind me. Eh yah! He’ll wait noni.
I can hear your thoughts right now; this one wants to die o, you’re thinking. Truth be told, if you parked every time a trailer or Danfo blares at you, when will you ever get to where you’re going?
Let’s go back to my test.
Here’s the thing: no matter what, the fears will always be there. Who says we can’t do things afraid? What’s life without fears, without risks and without the strength to push them aside? The Greatest Showman has something to say – comfort is the enemy of progress. So for now I’ll go on in the world, in hope that one day, one woman will join me in driving on the expressways. And that woman will become ten women. And ten will become hundred until one day I can drive on the expressway and not have people look at me like I have the wrong head on my body.