I wouldn't consider myself an 'expert' driver, having been driving for a mere 6years but I do know enough to pay attention to my dashboard. For instance, if the road is free and I am cruising on the express way, a cursory glance at my dashboard will show me that I am going too fast. 100km/hr tops and no more.
One day, not too long ago, after a particularly long day at work, I threw my stuff in the car and turned the ignition. I allowed the engine to idle a bit when I noticed something strange on my dashboard. Apart from the regular indicators that come on just before I buckle myself in and begin the long drive home - the seat belt, open door and hand brake indicators - the battery indicator also came on. Strange.
I popped the bonnet open to check that the battery terminals were not somehow dislodged. They weren't. Shrugging it off, I convinced myself that it was probably nothing. Indeed, the indicators went off after a few minutes' drive. What a relief. Or so I thought.
The next day on our way to work, on came the indicators again. This time, the hand-brake and battery indicators won't go off. That was the red flag. During lunch time, I took the car to an auto shop for a quick check and the 'mechanic' assured me that all was well. To 'prove' him right, the indicators stayed off.
Fast forward to 7:30pm, 2 hours past the normal closing time - no thanks to our 'Oga at the top' who needed a report completed and sent to Abuja 'immediately'. A colleague of mine joined me and we were chattering away in the car as we eased into the Third Mainland Bridge traffic.
Traffic must have been at it's worst that night because by 8:30pm, UNILAG wasn't even in sight! I had noticed a little loss of power as I stepped on the accelerator, the sound from the radio fluctuated and my headlights were rather dim. I did not want to raise any alarm, after all the car was still moving. Still moving, that is, until it wasn't!
My dashboard suddenly came alive. Every single indicator came on and my throttle won't work. My heart missed a bit and I turned to my colleague, "Bimpe, the car has stopped". She smiled and had that look on her face as if to say "Enkay please, stop playing". I turned the ignition again and again and heard that dreaded 'click, click' that meant the car batteries were totally flat. The alternator had finally packed up. In a show of bravado, I popped the bonnet again and went to check the batteries even though I knew there was no help for it. We were on the second lane from the speed lane and already the cars behind us were beginning to maneuver their way out, several of them honking as they went. I looked under the bonnet for several seconds before I slammed it shut. Tears were threatening....what to do, what to do.....get the C-Caution out? Call my husband? Call LASTMA? Or the Lagos State Emergency Numbers 767/112?
Bimpe busied herself with transferring all our stuff - handbags, laptops etc into the boot of the car. I remember thinking it didn't make much of a difference because SUV boots are just like an extension of the car interior; anyone looking to rob us will have a clear view of our 'boot'. Sounds crazy I know but watching her 'work' made me want to laugh and cry at the same time.
Most of the cars drove by without much more than an irritating glance. Obviously we were worsening an already bad traffic situation. Others paused only long enough to stare pitifully at us. I had just finished placing a call to the Hubs and he gave me some hope about arranging for a tow truck but I was skeptical about waiting till it arrived.
Just then, a Hilux Truck pulled up beside me and the driver, a good looking, bespectacled young man, ever so courteously asked me "Madam, what seems to be the problem?"
"Ah" I sighed, "The batteries are flat because the alternator is no longer charging them...." I trailed off.
He cocked his head and thought for a bit before driving off.
"Aaarrgh!" I thought to myself, the guy really looked like he was going to help!
I busied myself with getting the C-Caution sign out when I heard a male voice behind me say "Madam, we really need to push this car off the road". I looked up and there was the driver of the Hilux stretching his hand to take the car keys from me. Let's call him Mr. Spectacles.
With his help, we were able to push the car off to the side of the road so it was less of an obstruction. Mr. Spectacles thought he had a tow rope so he could at least help tow us out of there but he didn't. He offered to give us a ride to the police post further down the bridge since we might be targets to hoodlums lurking around in the shadows. Just then, another truck, much larger than the Hilux, pulled up beside us - a rickety but sturdy truck apparently used to ferry construction materials to and fro building sites. "Madam, Make I help you?!" the driver yelled at me. In less than 5 minutes, we had struck a deal. He would tow the car to the end of the bridge and I would pay him for the service.
Mr Spectacle stayed until the car was securely attached to the truck. We were about to pull away when it suddenly occurred to me that I had neither asked for his name nor his number. He reeled out his number as I felt the first jolt of the car; Mr Makeshift Tow-Truck was eager to be on his way. I told him my name and assured him that my family would call to express our thanks. He laughed and waved good bye. I could not wave back as another jolt had me gripping the steering wheel like my life depended on it.
I was just grateful to get to the end of the bridge in one piece. Mr Makeshift drove like a maniac, zig-zagging between cars. Bimpe stuck her hand out the window the entire time flagging other cars and frantically warning them that this maniac was on a roll.
At the end of the bridge, I was relieved to have Hubby take over. I was spent!
We called Mr Spectacle the next day to say Thank You and would you believe it? He worked in the same Company as my Brother-in-Law. As a matter of fact, he was at their wedding a few years ago! What a small, small world indeed.
I believe he was an Angel sent to help us and I am so deeply grateful that he did. There's no telling what would have happened if we'd been left there without help; hoodlums waiting in the shadows ready to take advantage of us.
I plan to buy, not one but two tow ropes just so I can give one away to help anyone else who may be stranded and in need of help. If there had been a tow rope in either of our cars, Mr Spectacles would have towed us to safety and Mr Makeshift's services would not have been needed.
Who knows, I just might be that Angel someone needs.