In different shapes and sizes they came

Monday morning isn’t exactly the highlight of my week. Most times, the first thing that comes to mind is my timesheet at the office, and all the jobs waiting for me. As I get out of bed it hits me full blast, with my legs in mid-air: five more mornings of the trotro experience. Perfect way to start the week.

After a few stampedes at Bridge, we’re on our way, bodies contorted this way and that, seated with various degrees of (dis)comfort in one of the two types of trotros that ply my work route: the Nissan Urvan and the Benz 207.

A Benz 207

A Nissan Urvan

In either bus, the seats, I’ll say, are very unfriendly to anyone above six feet. No matter how many rows there are, there’s never enough leg room. I’m actually so used to my knees scraping the dirty seat in front of me well well, that I don’t mind that much these days. Either that or I twist myself and bear sharp pain in my back the whole journey. Yeah, that takes up more than the space I paid for, and endure a few looks of disdain (first at my legs taking space, then at my face), but I just turn away with a look that says, “You don’t wanna mess with this brother!” The Urvan’s first row is only slightly better, though I still have to put my feet up on that metal just behind the driver’s seat and front seats, with curled up knees, almost to my chest. Every now and then, however, the mate decides to send us back into the dark ages and brings in an extra passenger, making us four in the row. So much for comfort. Back in the day, I wonder how we managed four on a seat. I mean, here I was, sat next to ‘syto’ school children eating beans or waakye straight from the rubber, sitting on top of each other so they pay only one fare, and making a complete nuisance of themselves. Then there are two artisans with their heavy tools in sacks, all on one seat that slips off and into the metal frame with each sudden stop. All this time my knees are mashed against the seat in front, and we’re all supposed to be grateful just to have got a ride? You can’t imagine my amazement when the other day someone in a 207 had her legs stretched out next to me with all the leg room of Emirates Business Class.

So how about escaping to the front seat next to the driver? In the Urvan, yes, there’s more leg room, and two on the seat, and you can ‘twaa seven’ (I think in English that would be sticking your elbow out of the window like you’re the car owner). But I only realized that you actually sit smack on the engine when the engine overheated one day? On that day it occurred to me that the ripped cushion offered little insulation. As if the bus isn’t hot and stuffy enough. As for the 207, the front seat may not be on the engine, but the gear is so close to the person sitting closest to it that you get a hit on the knee every time the driver moves into third! Don’t expect any apologies. If you have white trousers on that day, nawa for you oo…

So we’re stuffed in the Urvan like ‘fose’ bale, going along the streets of Accra. For sanity’s sake, I’ve blocked out my surroundings, engrossed in a book. The bus stops suddenly and I’m jolted back to reality with the falling off of the sliding door, the ‘gate’, as they call it, because that’s exactly what it is. Yes, the one that’s either got the seat belt or some flimsy drying line rope tied to it to secure it. I guess they can’t just let the thing slide on its own because it’s never greased enough. Anyway, that rope isn’t enough to keep that rusted thing in place. Imagine being in the front row, right next to the mate, and he’s struggling to keep this gate in place throughout the journey, because it keeps falling out like a dislocated shoulder. And all this while he’s sold his seat to a third passenger! Then there’s the other extreme, where no amount of banging can shut that hunk of metal. Mind you, this applies to both bus types. Once again, we just sigh to ourselves, enduring the noise as the mate continues in his battle of man versus gate, gate obviously winning. After a while, Bro. Mate whips out a stained bandana and ties the gate to the bus’s frame, very pleased with his ingenious solution. We’re in traffic and a few metres away from Ridge. The mate, after his morning exertions, is catching some sleep next to me, his head bobbing like a yo-yo. I guess this is just my cue to spring my escape and flee from all the drama.

That’s not to say all rides are unpleasant, but the trotro is a functional mode of transport that gets you from A to B. Period. It’s stripped, literally, of all comfort. Anything extra (like padding on the doors) is sold to spare parts dealers. It’s an experience to tolerate or endure till you bid it goodbye, and start the cycle again tomorrow.

I’m dying to hear what interesting experiences you’ve got from Urvans and 207s in your time.  Keep them coming!

Asomasi.

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About Kwaku Dankwa

By day, I'm an advertising copywriter. That's what I've done all my working life (National Service doesn't count). Husband of Esther, father of Jesse, and servant of Christ. I previously wrote a blog on the dramatic side of public transport in Accra, "The Daily Commute: From Bridge to Ridge." Enjoy.
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40 Responses to In different shapes and sizes they came

  1. Abimbola says:

    “Fose” Bale. Haha.

  2. ROCKA says:

    Can you imagine,a GPRTU boss said today on news, that they will do everything to make sure the BRT (Bus Rapid Transport) will not see the light of DAY..ONE MAN’S MEAT IS OTHER MAN’S POISON…

  3. THE GENERAL!! says:

    …nice story…please keep them coming..I’ll my trotro story one day..good piece..

  4. Ben-Mahmoud Sulley says:

    You keep writing these pieces and with enought publicity someone might get you a car, but then, who would take your place? I guess soon enough you’ll get your own.
    I’m not exactly 6ft (though I like to think I am), but I really identify with the leg room problem. My favourite place was the front seat close to the door and not the driver!

  5. Guy Lou says:

    Please let us all recite this prayer: ” God almighty, please do not let Kwaku buy his automobile soon for we will miss his stories.”

    This is as real as it gets.

  6. Mincey says:

    it’s very true. trotros are stripped to the barest necessity. no padding to hide the naked wires that snake the whole length of the insides.

    Once in a trotro on my way to work, we passed another that had just been ravaged by a fire.

    For the rest of my journey in the trotro I was scared mine was going to be next.

    my prayer to God every day is “…if I must die in vehicular accident, don’t let it be a trotro”

    • Kwaku Dankwa says:

      Hahahahaha! Somehow, you feel it doesn’t get more ignoble than dying in a troski, huh? You remember some time ago it was all these 207s that were killing people? Not cool.

  7. sharl says:

    need a ride honey? could spare you all this you know.lol. good piece though. you know where to find me for the unwritten comments.

  8. Kwaku Dankwa says:

    Actually, I just remembered that there were some really Dada B trotros, though I dunno what route they ply. The Stanbic Bank ones. They’ve got AC and all. I wonder if they still chill them. Some have it good…

  9. Joseph says:

    i agree with Sulley that the best seat in the house is the one next to the door..it’s also the best escape route from those contraptions should there be need of an escape. been in those things on countless occasions and even had the misfortune of being stuck between two other tro-tros. yes, my troski was literally off the ground for a second or two. brakes have failed on one other occasion, which was incidentally the only time i understood the usefulness of the ridiculously small spaces drivers leave between themselves and the preceding vehicle. it saved us then!

    But charle, all in all, a private car, no matter how rickety is by far a better option…man tiya b4…

  10. Raj says:

    This is so real and a good piece too….couldn’t help laughing to all the scenes i can relate to especially the part where the gate falls off.
    I have witnessed this scenario from “spanner junction to Accra” where the gate falls off and the mate had to hold it all throughout the journey.
    When a passenger had to get down he lifts the door and places it on the ground for him or her and then lifts it again and holds it till the next stop. You can imagine the look on his face and the anger he is holding in..woe betides anyone who gives him grief…man he will surely bite his or her dead off.

  11. Pearl says:

    “you can ‘twaa seven’ (I think in English that would be sticking your elbow out of the window like you’re the car owner)” LOL stop it you’re making me crack up loudly in the library and the early birds around are not amused.

  12. Kweku says:

    massa the front seat next to the driver is evry troxi passengers nightmare……the 3rd gear chale!!

  13. Juice says:

    Excellent piece bruv, excellent!!. Kwaku, u should consider scripting for the new tv series ‘Trotro’ u know. Without a speck of doubt, u have gained tarcid knowledge far exceedingly above and beyond the individual experiences of any 20 persons combined!! In a glorified and more contemporary form, one could refer to u as a ‘troski’ consultant…

  14. Juice says:

    I cudnt agree with you more guys. Trotro’s are totally bereft of any form of comfort. the less said abt the leg room in a 207, the better.

    N oh, do well to ensure there’s a mate in the troski’s you board. Recent personal experiences show a rather ingenious trend in the cost cutting strategies the drivers employ. This manifests in the form of restructuring / retrenchment / removal ( or really whichever synonym suits u best) of the mates. En route Kejetia one fine morning, i settle for a 207 ( though not my favorite brand) having stood for like 20 mins without any Urvan. I happen last to board the 207 and interesting enough find myself sitting on what usually should be the mates seat. As the engine revs noisely and struggles on, the driver appeals to one of the passengers to collect the monies on his behalf.. As she is doing this, another shouts ‘bus stop’. The 207 bus comes a grinding halt. Sitting next to the ‘gate’, your ges is as good as mine who had to open and close the gate!! (my goodslef all clad in my executive shirt and tie). It is worth noting however, it took 3 akward attempts each to shoves the ‘gate’ open and close it too. (Confirmation really of the saying that “If u try and u dont suceed, try and try again”) A few more openings and closing’s did happen before i jumped of the bus with all the alacrity and speed i cud master…

    Moral of the Story.
    1. The troski drivers have become very sophisticated employing some wild cost cutting strategies as well as division of labour towards maximising shareholder value…Case in point above.

    2. Just as the good book says, not all that call on my name shall be saved, Much in the same way, not all that shout ‘kejetia, kejetia!! at the bus station shall join the bus and perform their roles as mates..

  15. Ama says:

    I laughed out loud so many times, this was a good read and I must say you do write very well.

    But something bothers me about your title: if this is the DAILY commute then it is only fair that we get DAILY updates, no? I thought you would be giving us a “morning devotion” about your ride to work. Think about it, doesn’t have to be long, just an observation about the day’s commute … It’s not easy being a blogger you know – you exist for your public, not the other way round, wai!

  16. Dannie says:

    hahaha!!! Good one. I can totally relate with your daily plight. Can you believe at one point sitting in a Benz 207, a roach fell right on my arm?! A part of me died that day. I just looked up the ceiling and gave the loudest internalized scream ever to God about my need (not want) of a car! but trust me it’s better for those drivers to sell those side coverings to the Abossey Okai spare parts dealers than to have them for it to fester roaches and other unknown rodents!

    • Mambozoma says:

      OH MY GOODNESS!! u … oh my gudness! If this were to happen to me, I would quickly and passionately die!! It’s bad enuf that the whole bone-shaking journey is torture, but to have a roach fall on my arm?? I’m deathly afraid of roaches, silly I know! But I am!! You had me laughing so hard I cried! Seriously … a roach?????

  17. richard says:

    chale i identify with everything you wrote – and you know when people are getting on, or off and they decide to use your shoulder for support? never mind what’s on their hands…good going man

  18. slimpo says:

    Being 6 feet and over i know the thing about leg room. Right on point.

  19. nana kwame ofosu-agyei says:

    good piece boss.

  20. Sydney says:

    men this story is a killer! i couldn’t help myself but laugh all through. It actually reminds me of what i go through everyday. The twist to the whole story is when you have to join this trotro early in the morning and a mate has to stir you up with the nice fumes from his mouth and armpit, not to talk of the stench from his sweat drenched T-shirt he’s been wearing for the past three days if you’re lucky!. I bet you haven’t gotten there yet.

    Love the scripts bro! keep them coming.

  21. Ray J says:

    Boy u’re gifted….a very very very very good piece Kwakes…May the big man upstairs help you come up with better pieces, week after week…1

  22. Efua M-B says:

    Kwaku! This is great and hilarious. Unfortunately, I don’t have any stories I can contribute- I can’t remember if I’ve ever ridden one of these vans. But maybe sooner rather than later, I can experience them just for experience’s sake… or maybe that’s not a good idea…

    • Kwaku Dankwa says:

      Hahahaha! Efua, I just fear about the culture shock. I remember you telling me that when you were in PA, there was no public transport. Sure, whenever you come down, we’ll take a ride.

  23. Dee says:

    I can TOTALLY relate to all of this!!! The almost-non existent leg room, the cramming, the annoying kids piled on top of each other, and electricians, mason and goodness knows what else people with bags of equipment. GRRRRRRRR.

  24. Agyakomaa says:

    lol!!!!! Kwaku, if my office guys send for an ambulance, it will be your fault.
    pray you dont have to site on the seat in front of the mate when you have a serious headache. the mate’s choruses alone will double the dosage of medicine needed

  25. Kofi Opoku says:

    Nice on there bro. I hope the ‘dislocated shoulder’ bit wasn’t inspired by my experience.

  26. AB says:

    I just heard a snap around my rib cage area from excessive laughter and its your fault. You should sit in this dis(comfort) early in the morning when the mate is ready to bless you with a whiff of his breath as well…

  27. Dela says:

    Massa, u just told my story. My legs never seem to fit into these troskis and usually by the time i get to my destination (3 Troskis later) i’m full of aches and kinks

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