So it’s a cold September Monday morning in the city of Lagos and it’s drizzling. You can smell the rain in the air and the cold breeze sweeps into your room as your alarm rings to get you out of bed. A thought creeps into your mind to curl back into bed and call in sick, but appraisals are around the corner. So you get out of bed and take a quick shower ready to brave a rainy, wet Lagos. As you step out of the house, a slight drizzle begins and you ponder whether to go back in and get an umbrella, or just brave the weather and see how it goes as you are already running late. Common sense prevailed and you went back in, thankful for your decision as the rain intensified on your approach to the bus stop.
Surviving the city of Lagos during the rainy season requires a certain skill and knowledge set that I will share with you.
White pants/ skirts are outlawed during this period. Except expressly required by your job, white tops and shirts are also to be discarded during the rains. I know white shirts are very desirable, especially on Mondays; please do not fall for the temptation of wearing them. The risk of water being splashed on you is very high and you do not want to appear at work with a stained shirt.
You have to know the exact topography of any road that you regularly walk on this season. Knowledge of where the road ends and drainage begins ( Lagos has mostly open drainages so you can fall into them) is also necessary. Also know the exact location of manholes, covers of which may have been stolen. Look out for potholes, these puddles are filled with water, and Lagos drivers are not endowed with the spirit of kindness and consideration for pedestrians. In the event you fall foul of the puddle water, learn to hurl abuse and the symbolic hurling of stones in the direction of the erring vehicle as a Lagosian would do.
Decide early on before the rains come if you would wear a raincoat or carry an umbrella during the season, both have their plus and minus. The umbrella – preferably medium-sized- is most functional, as it keeps you dry and is easy to fold away in a bus. You have to master the fine art of folding it away, just as the inevitable struggle for an approaching danfo bus begins so as to avoid causing injury to others. This is except if you board the well-organized BRT buses, in which case you can keep it open until you get on the bus. Sharp Lagos business has produced a nylon Raincoat that comes in many colors and is readily available at bus stops in the event the rain catches you unawares. The only issue is taking them off when you board a bus; as I am not sure other passengers would appreciate a wet seatmate.
Befriend colleagues or neighbours with cars that ply your route ahead of time. The rainy season is not the time for ego, grudges, perceived slights, and temper tantrums. As much as you can, try and get into the good graces of your work colleagues and neighbors who can drop and pick you up thereby saving you the vagaries of a wet Lagos.
Monitor the weather reports on the news and on your phone, but also learn to “smell” and look out for rain. The smelling part is something your senses pick up over time when you live in a coastal city such as Lagos. It’s very normal to see Lagosians looking up at the sky intermittently to notice any swift change in the weather as they go about their business.
Be nice to small shop and stall owners along your route home (especially the distances you have to walk). You never know the day a sudden downpour will necessitate you to take refuge in Mama Nkechi’s shop.
Invest in rubber footwear to tread water freely and not worry about damage to your leather shoes. Leave your shoes at work or pack them in a bag to keep them dry. There is an assortment of rubber slides, shoes, rainboots, and all available to meet your fashion needs.
Have a change of dry clothes handy. No umbrella or raincoat can insulate you from the Lagos downpour when it’s loose. Bus shelters are a rarity in these parts and having dry clothes is insurance for such times.
Lastly, pray for the favor of the gods so you can buy a car. Lagos rain is not going to stop or relent anytime soon and you cannot infinitely rely on the goodwill of others.