Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Riding with Tamara
Two nights ago, while making my daily return home after work, I looked up from reading my very engrossing copy of author Ha Jin's "A Free Life", to realise that I was seated across the aisle from Tamara Tunie, the actress who plays the ME on Law & Order's Special Victims Unit (SVU).
There she was, sitting quite like any ordinary commuter, engrossed in conversation with her partner while I, tried not to break my neck from staring too long. Thankfully, she got off at my stop and I conered her, possibly freaking the poor woman out, for an autograph which she gave quite gracefully.
As I rode home, my autograph safely inscribed on to a page in my novel, as I had no other befitting material to produce for her to sign, I thought over the simple miracle that it was that she had ridden the metro. No, she might not be considered an A-lister but she could very well pay off all my bills without blinking and there she was, riding the same train as I.
It brought back to mind a conversation I had had with a blogger a while back on why I believed the social infrastructure in my country was not good. It was because, in my opinion, those who were responsible for its establishment and maintenance did not use it. It is only in Nigeria that the assistant to an assistant's assistant wants a chaffeur driven car and in most cases demands it.
Here, in DC, I ride the metro with Senators, teachers, bus drivers, students, tourists, children, thieves, fashion moguls, home makers and anyone else that needs to get around. No, the system is not perfect but compared to what is in my own country, it is beautiful. When something goes wrong, the backlash is heard from every level and what's more, it is acknowledged. Nigerian public transportation is the way it is because none of the commissioners use it.
When the board of directors for America's GM appeared before Senate early last year begging for a bailout, they were harshly criticised for having flown into DC on private planes and corporate jets. I am not sure if they did get what they were asking for when after being asked their mode of transportation into the city and their response was the above. In Nigeria, they would have arrived not only by private jets but in a loud and obnoxious convoy of overweight, barely intelligent entourages to collect money that would not be used in any way for what it was being requested for.
My dream is to be able to return to my home in Nigeria after a day's work at the studio, either riding my cream coloured moped or my bicycle with its rattan basket on the front; to be able to go walking or running in a park near my house and where necessary to show up at a location in Enugu, after a four/five hour train ride through the country from Lagos. I want to be able to catch the metro at Oshodi, and ride to the airport with my one overnight suitcase; to be able to drop my children of at the metro so they can ride to school too and pick them off in the evening when they are done. I don't need an SUV to carry me around because the public transportation would be comfortable, convenient and affordable. If I have a car, it will be a small one, for those days when I want to go exploring the city or when I have alot to carry around?
Is this too much to dream?
Well, riding with Tamara Tunie sure made me do so....