Fear and Our Loss of Humanity

A lot of things happen these days that we take for granted. The life of the average man or woman is preoccupied with too many things — majorly, concerns about the rat race that is life. In this apparently endless pursuit of happiness and wealth, we tend to lose sight of the obvious which more often than not, become obfuscated by blind determination.

In all my years, experience has taught me that the true source of happiness lies in helping others achieve that milestone; being that unexpected miracle to some probably undeserving stranger. The feeling that comes with is incomparable.

On the other hand, the pursuit of wealth is a mirage. An endless endeavour that never yields satisfaction.

So perhaps the baffling question then is why do people do less of the former and more of the latter?

I had a challenging day yesterday. It rained all day; in fact, it has been raining consistently for about three to four days now in select places across Nigeria. Constant rainfall poses serious challenges because of an abject lack of road construction or maintenance culture here and for a daily commuter like me making use of the poor transportation system on days I do not drive, getting to work is a nightmare and even more so when you consider my commute is interstate.

That said, I got to work, was totally immersed from 8 till 5 when I got off, and began the long journey home. If all things were equal or even close, my interstate commute would take me less than an hour. Factoring the persistent rains and the inevitable state of the poor road, an hour and thirty minutes and at max, two.

The condition of the car also matters. A rickety old jalopy would certainly affect the time spectrum so I usually prefer private vehicles owned by workers like me who make the interstate trip daily and charge fees to augment their fuel costs as fuel prices took over 30% increase recently (some Buharinomy for you). This usually works just fine for me but yesterday was something else.

A nice Toyota car pulled up and after a price was agreed, I got in and we zoomed off after several other stops to pick up more passengers. The ride was comfy so I slept off. I woke up an hour later to find that the car had stopped. The driver kept kicking the ignition and the car would sputter and go off in a manner indicative that he had run out of fuel.

I was furious.

We must have passed at least twelve filling station to have gotten this far which was the last middle-of-nowhere before I got into town. How did he not stop in one of those especially as his fuel indicator showed quite clearly that his fuel was almost done? His response was “But I put 6 litres before we left. It should have carried me to the next station just a few miles ahead”.

6 litres? 6 litres?! Are you fucking kidding me?!!!😣

The time was 6:30pm and it was already getting dark. The driver tried to rally round for money to buy fuel and I gave him half of what I originally should have paid and when he protested, “DON’T" I said. It is one thing to be in a difficult predicament because of my foolishness but to be in a difficult predicament because of the foolishness of another? That’s too much to bear.

I got out of the car. It was raining cats and dogs but luckily I had an umbrella. My co-passengers stayed behind; they weren’t as equipped. The driver came out, took an empty gallon from his boot and joined me under the umbrella as we both waited for transportation; for him, to the nearest filling station which was a couple of miles away and at a few minutes to 7pm, good luck with finding one open; for me, to get the hell outta nowhere.

Unfortunately, this proved to be more challenging than expected. Cars continued to zoom past ignoring our thumb and flagging signs. We stood for almost twenty minutes, the driver and I before he decided to start walking. His was a lost cause; his car was going to sleep there as I didn’t fancy his chances of getting fuel at that hour.

After another ten minutes or so, of fruitless flagging, I decided to start walking. I walked for about forty minutes or so, putting considerable distance between my self and the car which was now quite distinguishable from the distance with its flashing hazard lights and the blanket of darkness that now covered everywhere, stopping intermittently to flag down the speeding oncoming cars but none stopped.

I was getting desperate. At a point I felt angry that no one had the decency to stop and pick me up but then, I put my self in their shoes: if I was driving, would I stop? My answer made me ashamed so I continued walking. I had no idea where I was and I was very conscious now of becoming a victim of men of the underworld as I was flanked on both sides by bushes. For that reason, I refused to take any calls for fear of attracting attention. I managed to take one from my worried wife where I swiftly described my circumstance. I didn’t want her to worry too much so I left out a lot of details.

The rain continued mercilessly till I got to a spot where I met some people, residents of the community nearby waiting for transport towards my destination so I waited with them guessing this was a regular transportation pick-up point. My little hope disappeared after twenty minutes as my supposed partners in the struggle trooped back to the nearest community, saying it would be unlikely to get transport because of the rain.

I walked some more.

I met another group and waited with them and finally, my hope resurrected as a bus stopped but picked only one of us because that was all the space there was. At least a bus stopped.

Shortly after, a rickety Audi 80 stopped and I cast all decorum aside to struggle and get a seat. Only then, did I heave a sigh of relief.

Hours later before I fell into a deep, fatigued sleep, I recounted the events of the evening. Humanity has gotten colder; majorly because many would rather not take risks associated with lending a helping hand. Stories abound of people who got more than they bargained for because they tried to help strangers in need. Who is to say with absolute certainty that I wasn’t an armed robber hoping to prey on the inherent goodness of unsuspecting persons? At an imposing 6ft with muscular stature on a lonely stretch of road in the dark, how wouldn’t I strike fear in a possible would-be helper? Of course, we can’t discount the fact that some people just don’t give a damn.

As for the driver who put me in that predicament, I can’t with absolute certainty say it was his foolishness that made him buy just six litres of fuel to his near empty tank to embark on a journey of about a 100km. Maybe it was the size of the contents of his pocket and... Naaaah! That was definitely foolishness.

The world is more dangerous than it was thirty years ago. This development has given rise to fear that tends to shut tolerance, reason and humanity out. This is why there is the possibility that a candidate like Donald Trump with all his inanities could very well become the president of the most powerful nation in the world tomorrow.

Mr. Malcolm.

Photo credits: www.krugozors.ru