At the end of the jetway, a man calls my name. Cassidy?
Welcome to Lagos.
He grabs my wheeled suitcase from my hand and we take off—and I mean take off in a 0-to-60, just beneath a full run sort of way. As we zip past the people who deplaned before me, he makes conversation, politely telling me that it’s time to hustle. “I hope your flight was good. I don’t want to cause you any stress, but this is where we move fast,” he says. I secure my backpack even tighter and take my speed up a notch. We are bobbing and weaving and zigging and zagging through the labyrinth of the arrivals gates. Windows are open everywhere. It’s hot, humid and I am glad that I do lots of cardio.
We pause at our first queue. “Do you have your Ebola screening?” he asks. I do. I produce a paper on which I have made several checkmarks confirming that I have not been with a person who has died of a hemorrhagic fever in the last three weeks. Either way the agent shoots a white temperature-taking gun at my forehead. Twice. The second time asking me to move my travel-weary curls out of the way so she can get a better read. My passport is now a constant reminder of this Lagosian precaution.
The sprint continues onto the immigrations officials. I produce the blue arrival form Delta gave to me on the plane. A man in a tan uniform tells us that this is not the form they are using anymore, but luckily for us he has the right one. I look at the crisp blue Delta form and the wrinkled white slip this officer had jammed in is pocket. I have my doubts, but my handler nods me on to take it. So I do. I have a suspicion that without my speedy little friend this form could have cost me a pretty penny. At the immigration desk, the man takes one look at my visa, stamps my passport and we are through. I feel slightly jilted that my Nigerian visa, which took days of errands, hours of organizing and hundreds of dollars received less than 15 seconds of attention. Whatever. We are through. I am officially in Lagos.
Outside the airport, a beret wearing officer casually dangles an assault rifle from his pinkie. I’m hustled into a car with my driver and we drive into the hot afternoon sun.
There are people everywhere. Cars everywhere. Yellow buses filled with people everywhere. People and cars jammed together in what could be a four lane highway, except there are no lanes and cars seem to drive wherever they need; diagonal if they must. People are on medians, shoulders of the road, shoulders of other people and in between the cars. Men and women walk against the flow of traffic selling peanuts, icy sodas, children’s pajamas and… is that a 4 foot poster of a Lamborgini on top of the Manhattan skyline? It sure is.
Our driver locks the door as we enter the 4:30pm grid lock. Other cars, however, are indeed buying. One car rolls does roll down their window for a beer, the vendor strolling alongside the car while making change. A commercial comes on the radio. It’s the state traffic and roadway safety commission encouraging people not to cross the expressway and to use the pedestrian bridge. Still, outside our windows the steady stream of people flows around bumper to bumper traffic as it inches forward. Another man stops our car. He is selling chargers, I consider this a more pragmatic offering than the flannel pajamas hanging on another man’s hangers. We politely decline and he walks away. Traffic breaks and it’s onward into Lagos.