At the BRT park in Ajah, there was a short queue of about ten people. It was early morning and it had rained earlier. There was no bus yet so the people there were waiting in faith.
There is a critical queue length (CQL) which is the minimum number of people who have to be on a line for that line to appear legitimate. Once the queue has accumulated that number of people, it generates enough conviction to passers-by that those waiting are certain that a bus is coming. And like that, the line attracts even more people.
But if you asked anyone gathered there if they knew if a bus was coming, they would stare at you blankly and say something like, “Can’t you see the line?”
About five people from the start of the queue was a woman carrying a backpack.
The man behind her was playing with his hands. He shuffled to her left, he shuffled back behind her. He kept turning and looking around like he was expecting the bus to sneak up on him. Someone standing around them shouted. “Chai! Madam be careful, this boy is trying to steal your phone.” The woman swung the bag to her front and saw that the bag was unzipped. The fidgety man behind her opened his eyes wide, pointed to himself, Who me?
The person who had alerted the woman said, “It’s true! I saw you.”
More of the people on the queue got involved. “Picky pocket. That’s how they do, they will be standing on line waiting. Then they will disappear, your purse will be gone, your phone too, you won’t ever see them entering the bus.” “It happened to me like that one time.”
The woman zipped her bag up and hugged it tight in front of her. A few minutes later, the accusations died down.
Now the alleged thief, to prove that he wasn’t stealing, was stuck on the queue. He was waiting with everyone else, acting impatient. When the BRT official walked by, he joined the other passengers in complaining, When is the bus coming? We have been waiting for over thirty minutes.
But even when he was united with them, the people would not stop talking about his stealing past. “Look at him pretending like he has somewhere to go.” “I know, just watch and see.”
Someone said, “That’s how they always do here. And they are never just one. Once you catch them, another one will come and be supporting him.”
The group evaluated each queue member searching for who was most likely to be his accomplice. A new man joined the queue. He was wearing a short-sleeved shirt with a tie. He was carrying a file folder and the belt holding up his trousers was looped around his entire body twice.
He overheard part of the conversation and asked what happened. He listened, nodding at all the speakers and looked the thief over.
“Why you no slap am?”
“No o, you no dey beat thief, they just come back dey tiff again. You must kill them.”
The alleged thief was cleaning his fingernails, being interested in the dirt he found there.
The BRT bus pulled up and the bus assistant came down the front steps. She asked the first person for their destination and held her hand out for the passenger’s ticket.
She took the ticket and tore the stub off the end for herself. She ripped the remaining part of the ticket in half and returned it to the passenger. She did that for the next three people. The woman with the bag stepped forward, submitted her ticket and got into the bus. Then the alleged thief was at the head of the queue.
A brief look of confusion crossed his face as he stood at the entrance of the bus. He did not have a ticket in his hand. Instead, he tapped his chest three times and turned into smoke.
Someone from the back said, “See? I told you.”
The ticket collector waved her hand back and forth to dispel the mist and called up the next passenger. The passenger stepped forward, she took their ticket, and tore the stub off for herself and ripped their ticket in half and returned it to them. Then she did the same thing for the person after that, and for the person after that too because she had a long line to get through.