Like Dancing Chairs…

I had gone through this route before. Countless times, but today I connected with it all.

When the traffic lights turned red they marched in a procession toward the shiniest cars. It was like a game of dancing chairs- who could get the most money before the lights turned green. Except this was not a game, it was a fight for survival.

The little ones, bare feet and unassuming moved through traffic quickly trying to reach as many cars as possible. I was sure they were timing themselves- 15 seconds, or less if the driver was ignoring them.

The disabled were there too, plenty. Few on wheelchairs, many with long walking sticks while double amputees were on make shift ‘planks-on-wheels’. The latter had it hardest, rolling their way through traffic to salon cars, avoiding the 4 Wheel Drives- too high to get any attention- only the very ambitious  bothered.

I saw the able bodied- mostly young men, with worn out glass cleaning wipers and Eva bottles filled with green foamy liquid. Though fewer in number, these ones I could tell pride themselves in their ‘service’. They were in search of ‘dirty windscreens’ and of course spare change. In spite of it all they were no different from the others they ignored the dirty commercial buses and taxis favouring only the shiny cars.

The clock was ticking; the lights would change in no time. The little ones had just about gone to all the cars, while the adults played catch up.

 In this race, this fight for survival they had to contend with the vendors. They were the undeniable winners of attention, with many more willing to trade than empathise.

The vendors were more than them- men, women, children hawking  plantain chips, biscuits, mints, garden eggs, books, drinks, yogurts, inflatable beds, teddy bears, handkerchiefs, tissues, stationary. There was an endless stream of them; all moving fast only stopping when there was interest. They were attentive and ready to jump off the road when the lights turned green.

Just as with dancing chairs, the music stopped, the lights turned green and everyone ran to  the kerb, the disabled first, the traders last- always trying to hold up traffic.

For everyone it was a two minute hustle on repeat every six minutes when the lights turned red again and every participant was ready to try their shot at this hustle till the night came when the grid-lock began and they were more cars to visit.

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Sincere

It is the first day of the month and she is feeling really positive, so she set out as usual by herself looking for money

she was only nine, but she had mastered the trade quite well. She will stand at the road side and wait for the traffic lights to turn red.That was how her mother did. ‘Just watch the cars, aim for the shinny ones’ she’ll say.

Amina saw the lights turn yellow then red and she made her way to the first car, it was a shinny red car, she walked to the drivers side trying to peer into it. She found that making eye contact often helped, on this occasion however she was nervous because this car had tinted windows.

‘Please give me some money, I don’t have any money, Please, Please’ she spoke to the Driver leaning against the car, she was sure he could see her. She could see her reflection on the window; her brown curly hair flying wildly from an old pony tail, her top was torn at the sleeves, and her face was covered in filth.

The driver moved forward, he was trying to get her off his car.

She stepped back spontaneously and walked away, ‘what a waste of time’ she thought. She  looked at the next car, it was an old raggedy van. The driver seemed old and poor, she could not decide whether it was worth the effort begging this man. She looked back at the traffic light and saw that she only had about 30 seconds till it turned green. So she gave the van a chance, ‘please give me some…’ the driver stopped her mid way into her chant and threw two green notes at her. There were twenty Naira notes. She jumped at them like a hungry dog. ‘Thank you sir’ she said with excitement in her voice. ‘God bless madam and the family’ she kept thanking him as he drove off.

In that moment Amina learned a weird lesson, it was not about the car as mother had taught her, but it was about whether the giver was sincere or not.

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This is a response to today’s one-word prompt ‘sincere’, make sure you participate before the day runs out.