Go-Slow Vendors

Traffic in Lagos is referred to as “go-slow.” This has created opportunities for enterprising individuals, usually men, to sell everything from beverages and magazines to fire extinguishers and even puppies. The closer you are to markets the more choices you have in what is sold, and can include books, shoe racks, Christmas trees, and toilet seats. This is because the vendors can always bring these bigger or heavier items back to the shops if the traffic is smooth and business is therefor slow. I have at various times purchased music CDs and toys. Not all vendors ply their wares on foot, some display these by a regular spot in sidewalks: like baskets, paintings, and pottery.

Every Christmas the overseas hires at our school hold a “go-slow gift exchange,” which is a variation of the white elephant gift exchange. There’s a cap that the price be equivalent to $10, and participants have been known to be creative and use their sense of humor in purchasing the gifts. Our neighbor got an okada (motorcycle taxi) driver’s helmet last year, for example. The rules of the game is to draw numbers then take turns in picking out the gift from the pile. The donors are usually not identified to add to the mystery. Then the gift is unwrapped in front of everyone. Those whose turn come next have the option to pick a gift from the pile or steal from those who already opened theirs. A gift can only be “stolen” three times, and the person can not steal back their gift unless someone else stole it before them. Some of the most sought after presents included a man’s wallet with “Jesus” embossed in the fake leather.

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