Tuesday, January 26, 2010

on any given day...

Technology is fantastic. I mean, look at me, not anywhere close to a desk nor even a computer, but still able to get this article to you.
Music in the background, voices in the other background, some soda to drink and a snack from my favourite vendor. Bliss.
But i have spoken too soon. Because now, that gentleman (also known as an ‘area boy’), and that other gentleman (also known as an ‘agbero’) are about to break bottles on each other’s heads because apparently, one of them touched the others’ bottle. The one he picked up to quickly buy more fuel into and sell to that lady whose car has just died and who cannot be bothered to try and queue.
Yes my fellow Nigerians, i am at a petrol station.

There was a time we did not queue for fuel. This time is also known as, ‘in the good old days’. This was the time before Christmas was postponed, and before queuing for fuel became part of your to do list. As in, ‘hey tosyn, what are you doing on Thursday’, and ‘hey Shade, well after the show, i’ll grab a quick lunch, queue for fuel and get a pedicure’.
First we did it reluctantly, but now we blog about it, tweet while we are doing it, and of course, write an article in the Guardian because of it. And if we are not careful, we will actually get used to it. Like how we got used to there never being PHCN-generated power at home.

But while you try to adjust to it, i have moved on to other things, like turning it into a commercial venture! What? Aren’t the ice cream man that i just bought yogo from, and the vendor that i bought gala from also doing it? And what of these touts that i spoke of earlier who have now made up and are jointly bargaining with the stranded lady? (I think they have asked for thrice what they bought it for. I don’t think she cares anymore). Why can’t i create a Survival Guide to Petrol Queues, and make money from it?
I mean, everyone needs to know what they need for a fuel queue.
The most essential thing is an empty bladder. Noone forgives the man who left his car to ease himself, thereby letting others jump the queue when the gate of the petrol station was eventually removed.
You must however stay refreshed and entertained so please have some water and snacks. But if you do not take any with you, do not fear. There will be a steady stream of hawkers urging you to buy everything and anything. And on that note... no ma, i do not need matches, stove and kerosene. I will not be making my dinner at the station.
Your vocabulary might be very good at this point, but you need to incorporate some new words. ‘Please’. ‘Oga’. ‘Comot!’ or ‘Clearout’. Longer phrases like, ‘Turn by Turn’, ‘How Far?’ and ‘You dey craze’, and questions like, ‘Are they selling?’, also come in handy.
Murphy’s law warns you that at any given time, anything that could go wrong usually will. Remember this when you get on a queue that seems to be moving but stops moving when it gets to your turn because the pump is hot. Or when you get to a station that is selling from only one pump, and is giving priority to people with kegs. When a fight breaks out, chances are something will hit you, or your windscreen. Dress accordingly, this is not the day for short dresses, heels or designer shirts.
Look out for our favourite regulars at petrol stations. Mr But-What-Are-You-Doing-Here? who is at the station but is not buying fuel nor selling it. There is always that one guy that is mad at the world, and at you. He spends his time grumbling, and if you spray perfume that he does not like, you will know! People pick their noses all the time, but there is something about a fuel queue that brings out the skills of even the most polished person, and there’s always that one girl applying mascara or blush...it usually is me. Queues go on for hours, so Mr Never-Time-Wasted has asked his colleagues to meet him at the station for a meeting, and love or at least, friendship-at-first-sight occurs here regularly. There is nothing like bonding over petrol fumes and sighs.
Since the directive that petrol should not be sold in kegs any longer, the keg queues have grown even longer, but on a good day, there will be a random guy who has brought his ‘I Better Pass My Neighbour’ generator to the station. Laugh hard. These are the little joys you get at times like this. And Mr If-I-Was-President provides the social commentary. He knows why there is fuel scarcity (although he never says anything strongly nor clearly enough for you to also understand why), and has an opinion on everything, from the Super Eagles (it is the defence), to banks. This guy is your most valued asset at a station, when your battery runs down and you can no longer listen to the radio, or when you are just so starved of human contact that any one would do!
You have been armed with some essential tips for coping with petrol queues. The other tips can be found in my book, complete with a complementary Keg-Disguise bag, for those silly stations that actually comply with instructions not to sell petrol into kegs.
Remember too that anyone can write a book, as it starts with asking the most basic questions
- Why is there fuel scarcity
- When will cars run on urine
- How can i increase my urine output for when question 2 above is answered?
- Why is my car suddenly lighter?
- Where is my spare tyre?


  1. Tragic aint it that a whole new vocabulary is built round a problem that should not be a problem in the first place:(

  2. It is more fun to read now that the joke is no more on us...I had a running stomach while queuing for fuel once..it wasn't fun!