What does it feel like to drive a pretty nice car?
I saw this question on Quora yesterday and I was quite amused to read one of the answers. The best answer was given by a 30 year old guy who’s into the real estate business and drove a Lamborghini. He narrated an experience he had with the police in the United States of America and I couldn’t help but identify the parallels between his experience and mine since I got my not so glamorous car — I drive a 2007 Toyota Camry, which in Nigeria, is a pretty big car for a 25 year old to drive, let alone own.
On my way home from work yesterday again, I had one of my regular experiences with men of the Nigeria Police Force — as they’re referred to.
It was 5 minutes to midnight and I was about 15 minutes away from home. I work about an hour away from home and I stayed that late in the office just to avoid traffic. I came up on the police checkpoint at a bad spot in the road — the police make a habit of setting up checkpoints at bad portions of the road because I guess no one would stop if the road were good.
There was an SUV in front of me with an elderly driver. The officer exchanged some greetings with him and made a perfunctory search of the vehicle using his flashlight and after a few seconds, he waved the vehicle off. I rolled my car up to the spot just vacated by the SUV and slowed to a crawl while the officer swung his flashlight back and forth - in a manner that suggested he was sizing me up.
Normally, the police would swing the lights a little quicker to notify you that they expect you to stop but this guy didn’t. I took this as a sign he wasn’t stopping me (which would have been a first). He got pissed and started screaming at me, asking why I didn’t stop. He then proceeded to bang on the car with his palm and ask me to park while his colleague (who I’d call Officer B) walked up to me.
Now, when they’re pissed, the officers of the Nigeria Police Force could be aggressive. I complied with their instructions and shut off the engine. Officer B then proceeded to point his flashlight in my face while asking me to turn off the lights and pop the trunk.
I stepped out of the car and opened the boot. Then, he asked: what’s in the bag? He was referring to my knapsack in which I keep my macbook and a few things. I pulled out the computer and showed him the other contents of the bag.
Then he asked: where are the papers of this car? I gave them to him.
Next he asked: what about your driver’s licence? Did the same and handed that document over.
Then he started like they all do: who owns the car? Where do you work? Is it a company car? What work do you do again? Where is the document authorising you to drive this car? Where do you live? Where are you going? Where are you coming from?
Then he asks the question that both amuses and annoys me in equal measure: how old are you? I look at him, with my driver’s licence and official identity card in his hands and think about the most diplomatic way to answer the question without showing my impatience.
After answering all the questions and spending about 10 minutes on that spot, he hands me my papers and says: it’s only because of the identity card you showed me that I’m letting you go; we both know how it is with you these boys with computers and internet. I would have just arrested you and taken you to the station.
The most annoying part of that comment was that he was speaking the truth. Just because I drove a relatively new car and appeared too young to be able to drive, let alone own it, he could have arrested me right there.
I took back the papers and proceeded to enter the car. The officer B says again: enter that car and do something for us… he’s actually asking me for money. When I act like I didn’t hear, he says again: do something tangible o, something very tangible.
I just shook my head in disgust and drove off without looking back. I’m confident that wouldn’t be my last encounter of that nature. In fact, I’m looking forward to more because I have hopes of getting myself an SUV very soon.