Extra: Port Harcourt Taxi Drivers And Their Wahala

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Florence Uwaeme

Living in Port Harcourt can not be said to be rid of its hassles, as is relatable with other cities. The Garden City is a beautiful place to live in or visit because it has all the attributes of a bubbling town; except, of course, that it has some areas that are ridden with bad roads – which is a common sight in all parts of Nigeria.

If you are a first time visitor in the Garden city and you intend exploring the city through public cab drivers, ensure to ‘hol your change’. Whenever I am in a new city/town, I ensure I use the public cabs as this gives you first-hand information about the way people in that city interact, most people’s political affiliations, the most expensive places, a most hated public officer in the state, not forgetting the slums as well.

The cabs in Port Harcourt can not be said to be the ideal cabs of the world. That notwithstanding, they don’t fail to discharge their duties daily though. Except on some of the rainy days in the city; which is almost on a daily. Lol. I have gotten one of my favourite pieces of denim torn by one of these cabs. The trunks of these cabs are a no, no. If you’re moving about with luggage, no matter how heavy they are, please do not put them in the trunk of these cabs as you surely will regret it. I once threw my backpack into one of those trunks; this was when I was still a johnny just come in the city. My bag is yet to forgive me for such treatment because the stain gotten from the trunk experience is yet to wash off.

The bodies of these cabs are usually not in their perfect state. You’re likely to see a cab with up to four different colours. The drivers’ door may be blue; the front passenger’s door may have green on it while the two back doors may come in red and white colours. Who says our cabs can’t be colourful? Least I forget, you will need the help of the drivers most times in either opening or closing the doors because these doors are only responsive to the drivers. Unique set of cabs, I must say!

What about the people behind the wheels of these cabs- the drivers. These cab drivers are always in their kind of mood daily. There are the ones that dress appropriately with pleasant smell- this brand though is quite rare. They are only seen once or twice in a week. Very scarce, I tell you! It must have been a hidden part of the constitution that almost all drivers must have a tad of rascality in them because I’m yet to meet a Port Harcourt driver that is lacking in this trait. Even the ones on a suit- if angered can pull the outfit and decorate you with fisticuffs. They won’t mind! One driver at Rumuola bus stop refused to give a female passenger her change and went ahead to ornament her face with spittles as stinky as a pig’s house.

The front seat isn’t my thing at all except when I’m running late. My left leg got stiffened one day because I was stuck in-between the driver and another passenger. What about the day the left side of my face got a splash of saliva from the angry driver while he was cussing out his colleague.

Port Harcourt drivers always have first-hand unverified information about events around the state. Trust them to spice their stories up by adding a little bit of salt, crayfish, pepper to taste and their choice of seasoning.

I will never forget the day a driver nearly beat me up after we arrived at our destination. It was a rainy day and I had an event to attend. I was almost late for this event. I was virtually on the call throughout the ride, so, it was imperative for me to forget that I hadn’t change in my purse. This trip was from Nkpolu to Rumuola; a trip that cost a hundred naira. As was the culture, the drivers asked for their money before getting to their destination. Other people in the cab had two hundred naira notes, I was the only one with a five hundred naira note. The driver turned and barked these words at me: ” I nor tell you say make you hol your change? E be like say you wan carry me play for this car abi? It was obvious I had stepped on a delicate toe. I had to buy ukazi leaf from the only woman that agreed she had change from the nearby market. I later threw the ukazi leaf away though, I did not need it.

After that day, I made it a duty to always “hol my change”. It is even more important than having food in the house these days. If you don’t want to put yourself in unnecessary trouble with Port Harcourt drivers, make sure to ” hol your change oo” before entering their cab. Sometimes I wonder what they do with the change from the day before.

I once asked a driver, and he told me that he stores his change for the next day. How can this be true when even early in the morning they still scream ” hol your change oo”?

Port Harcourt drivers and change can be said to be inseparable.

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