My Encounter With SARS Changed My Mentality

My Encounter With SARS Changed My Mentality

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So, I’m just feeling jobless today and I feel like summarizing the experience I had with Sars some days back. It’s nothing serious, I just feel like writing. Sit back, it’s going to be a very long and boring (ironical) epistle.

Disclaimer: This is a true-life experience, no fiction. Ignore the comic relief that might make it seem unserious, it’s just my style of writing. 

Nevertheless, I had my SARS experience, want to know how it went down? Grab popcorn. Read along.

It was a sunny afternoon filled with loads of unreasonable news, monkey swallowed money yen yen yen, a bunch of weed smokers feeding the nation with fantasies. I was just thumbing through the ridiculous news when she said: “Where can we go today?” (You don’t need to worry about “she”). 

As Lagos is a city with many interesting places, a couple of ideas flashed through my head, well, Lekki Conservation Centre doesn't sound like a bad place to have a whale of time, I concluded. I ran to the bathroom.

Fast forward to few minutes after, I was Dressed to a tea, dressed for a tea or dressed to go to a tea, whichever!

I fired up my uber app and the request went through. The app showed that the driver was 2 minutes away. I stayed outside for several minutes for the uber driver who claimed he was outside but was on the third street, damn! He was stuffed in the estate. 

You know how frustrating it is when you order an Uber driver that doesn’t know how to easily navigate through google maps. He got lost like 3 times before God finally tapped him like “son, stop wandering, that is the way”.

I bounced into the Toyota Camry with my cold Smirnoff, it was such a nice car with probably a newly refilled air condition cos the car was too damn cold. 

Can I start the trip now? The UBER driver asked. Yes sure, I replied. I wonder why they ask that question anyway, sey you won’t start trip before?

It was barely 5 minutes into the trip, just along Lekki-Epe Expressway, right after Jakande, that ShopRite side. A bus careened passed my car, like police pursuing thief, loaded with 7 well-dressed men, all waving at my driver to pull over. Poor driver, he gave in too fast, not even some fast and furious moves to make it adventurous grin grin grin. He packed.

SARS? How did you know? The writing is on the wall! My sixth sense yelled at me. 

But they said they don’t visit this part of Lagos? But why would they stop mine out of 100s of cars flying along this path? What an unlucky day!

I was literally caught between Scylla and Charybdis as loads of thoughts flashed through my mind. A knock on the window brought me back to reality.

Who are you? A question directed at my driver. He innocently replied, “I am an uber driver”. The SARS officer moved away from him with that “I have no business with you” look and then turned to me. “Young man, kindly step down”, he said.

Prior to this day, I’ve heard a lot about SARS, all of which were bad testimonies, but I never had an encounter with them. Even though there’s no skeleton in my cupboard, but the fear of the testimonies those Twitter users summarised wouldn’t just make me think straight. 

And the way Gebu, my talkative friend, summarised the slap they gave him when they caught him, I wouldn’t imagine it. One Twitter user even said they bundled him like rice into their car without asking any question. Another one said they gave him 12 slaps on his left cheek and 5 on his right cheek, I was now wondering, who counted the slaps?

They should sha not slap me on my right cheek, cos the big pimple there is just getting ripe and I don’t want any SARS slap to burst pimple for me. I thought to myself.

I stepped out of the car, with anxiety, coupled with my dear Smirnoff as I sipped some drops just to feign confidence. You know if you are sipping Smirnoff and talking to them it’ll give them that “e sure for me” and “I don’t care” impression. 

He led me towards their bus, I saw 5 men standing in front, waiting for me. At this point, my eyes were bigger than my mouth! Why so many of you bruh? Just one man is enough to handle me, why so much stress, I’m harmless! I cried inside as I played MI - Action Film in my head. I could feel my spirit consoling me already like “bro, we gonn be alright, whatever happens, I’m gonn be with you, stay strong”.

I adjusted my saggy trouser as I charged forward.

SARS OFFICER: Hello gentleman, I am officer ********* (He showed his ID), how are you doing?

Shocked! The SARS I heard about don’t greet politely like this, I was thinking they greet with slaps and aggression. I wondered. 

ME: I’m good thanks.

SARS OFFICER: Sorry for stopping you. You understand what is going on in the country now. Crimes, cultism and all. And we are trying our best to put an end to that. Can you spare few minutes of your time, please?

ME: Yea sure, I understand. 

*Sips Smirnoff to catch my breath*

SARS OFFICER: We saw you making a call while in the car, can you tell us who you were calling? 

*At this point I got to know it was the sight of iPhone X through the window while I was making call that made them follow my car, nice*

ME: Yea right. I saw a missed call on my device and I tried dialling the number but I later realized the number was that of the uber driver.

SARS OFFICER: How do I believe that? Can I have your phone to confirm?

*Hmmm. Nice gimmick to get hold of my phone and search through. That’s smart and creative. I’m impressed. Unlike the ones that use slaps and John Cena smackdown to collect phone from boys.*

ME: Sure. Have it.

*I handed my phone over with humility. Probably just trying to avoid that pimple-bursting slap*

He gave the phone to another officer deep inside the bus to do his work (search thoroughly) and dragged me away from the bus for some time-wasting questions. So at this point, he started asking me loads of friendly questions while giving the other officer enough time to take my phone to the moon for an x-ray scan and come back.

The conversation goes thus:

SARS OFFICER: Where are you from?

: **** State

SARS OFFICER: Where in **** state?

ME: I don’t know. I’ve never been there. Cos there’s actually nothing to do there.

SARS OFFICER: What does your dad do? What does your mum do?

ME: Dad is a *****. Mum is a ******.

SARS OFFICER: What do you do?

As an internet marketer, this is a very trickish question as things we do are somewhat difficult to explain to a layman. How do you explain that you work on Fiverr, you are into freelancing, you work for white people, but you have no office. Or tell them you’re into importation so they can ask if you pay custom duties. Or tell them you trade bitcoins so the argument of whether bitcoin is legal in Nigeria or not can begin.

It might actually lead to no harm but would rather prolong the matter and lead to more questions. So in order to beat this, I decided to avoid my major work (freelancing) and gave them an easier option that was easier to comprehend.

ME: I am a blogger. And a web developer.

SARS OFFICER: Web developer? Can you design phishing sites? And bank clones?

*Lol. Trying to put words in my mouth.*

ME: I’ve not done such before. Designing those kind of sites is morally questionable. But there’s no kind of site that I can’t design, technically speaking.

SARS OFFICER: Do you have any ID? To justify your work?

ME: I only have a school ID. I’m a student. But I don’t even have the ID here with me. But I can show you a scanned copy of my company registration document.

SARS OFFICER: Anyone can have a scanned copy. How do you want to prove what you do for a living?

ME: I own a couple of websites, like 4. I can give you the links so you can check, you’ll see my name right in the footer. 

SARS OFFICER: How do we believe the name is yours since you have no ID?

ME: Google the name, you’ll see my face and phone number, call the number, my phone will ring.

SARS OFFICER: Okay let’s check!

*He gave me his phone and he discovered I wasn’t reluctant to google it, so he told me to bother not*

He looked at the other officer on the bus and it was obvious he was still busy with my phone. My heart cut a bit as I took few seconds to think of “what might be incriminating on my device”, I couldn’t think of any. Plus, if he had found anything he would have called my attention.

To buy the phone searcher more time, he continued..

: So, have you been to Malaysia before?

ME: No. At all.

SARS OFFICER: But the chain on your neck is Malaysian gold.

ME: *Which Malaysian chain, I thought* Noo. Chain that in my hometown from local aboki. 

SARS OFFICER: How many carat is it?

ME: I have no idea. *I don’t fight kungfu*

SARS OFFICER: Where do you stay?

ME: Lekki here. Just at the next junction.

SARS OFFICER: Do you know ********** ?

He mentioned a name. I’ve heard the name a couple of times. It’s the name of a popular G boy in Lekki.

ME: No. Where is that? 

SARS OFFICER: Never mind.

Probably getting tired at this point, he went back to the bus to ask the other officer what’s the update.

He told me to enter the bus and sit in a strategic position that makes me face 3 of them. Then he started his own interview.

SARS OFFICER: What are international numbers doing on your WhatsApp?

*Sebi it was call log you wanted to confirm, how did it get to WhatsApp again. I thought. So I finally have to explain the freelancing I didn’t want to explain*.

ME: Oh okay. I work as a digital marketer online on freelance sites like Fiverr (Looking lost, they probably didn’t know the meaning. I knew it would be hard to explain). So I write contents and develop websites for white people. If you go through our WhatsApp conversation you’ll notice it was all about strange web technology terms and SEO content delivery, nothing more.

He didn’t argue. Definitely went through the chats himself.

SARS OFFICER: I saw a complaint from a white man on your Facebook, saying he paid for a book and you scammed him.

ME: No, it was just a misunderstanding. He paid for one of my books, but the payment was via PayPal. Due to PayPal issues, payment was delayed and didn’t get to me for a couple of days for whatever reason, but he had no chill. I didn’t reply him on Facebook cos he sent the same message to my mail and we settled it there.

SARS OFFICER: What book do you sell?

ME: I have written like 4 books on various subjects that I sell. 

SARS OFFICER: What are you doing with roughly 15 emails on one device?

ME: I create them for different purposes. No blackhat intention. You can just go through the inbox.

Okay. They looked at each others’ eyes, nothing more. For my mind, I was like “can i leave now? Chop buster”...

The officer at the entrance of the bus signalled a “come out of the bus” as the driver fires up the engine. 

“Thanks for your time. Don’t join them o”... The officer said as I bounced out of the bus with relief, I cut the mustard! 

It was at this point I realized I’ve been unconsciously holdiSmirnoffar smirnoff since. Ooops, the right time to take a deep gulp. I threw away the can. 

It was a sugar-sweet experience that changed my mentality. Leaving aside the fact that they wasted 20 minutes of my life. 

I’m having the feeling that I came across the lenient SARS, not the ones I’ve been hearing of. Probably because it was on the island and they know they have to be careful on there as most people on the island are elites. 

Or is it safe to say if you don’t have any skeleton in your cupboard, you are always free? Or I was just lucky to have escaped at least one slap?

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