For whatever reason, I never heard the alarm and overslept. After getting dressed in record time, it was a quick dash to Bridge. Through the bush path linking my junction to the main road, I plodded on, each step a little more painful than the last. I was muttering to myself, complaining about the anticipated hassle that would no doubt welcome me. But the pain eased as I got nearer. I was almost dancing within. Where was the great multitude of different tribes, tongues and vocations? I laughed at my own silliness. I’d avoided the swarm of commuters. Somehow, I would make it to work without a struggle. I got nearer. The smile got broader. The Opel Vectra blocking my view sped away. The smile vanished.
I bear the war wounds on my hand from that great struggle to this day.
It amazes me how a guy in a shirt and tie can lower himself to the levels of pushing and shoving strangers just to get into that old bus, but the heat can make you do crazy things around here. After experiencing the sun in all its glory for what seems like hours, that’s enough motivation to throw reputation and gentility to the wind and get dirty. Literally.
In their desperation, people have run through rain to get involved in the struggle. Women tend to fare better at getting in, though I refuse to dwell on reasons why, before I lose half my audience. It’s annoying when some guy gets to the gate first, holds each side firmly and blocks the path, creating a path for all his friends to get in. If you’re like me, you decide he deserves a kick in the shins, but you think better about it and walk away with what little dignity you have left intact.
Take this occasion, for instance. At the other side of the road, which happens to be the last stop, the last passengers are getting off. Everyone is looking away, pretending not to have seen that an empty trotro is just about to weave itself our way, so as not to attract too much attention from similarly frustrated hopefuls.
It didn’t stop right in front of you. The front’s already been taken before you know it.
The mad rush begins.
Here’s the drill: time your run, secure your phone, secure your wallet, and get those hands ready, ‘cos you’re just about to shove someone in the face in an attempt to get it. I’ve always secretly admired the lone ranger who gets round to the back, away from the advancing army trying to get break down that little gate, and climbs in through the back window. One leg on the tyre, one leg through, and he’s in. Easy. He then signals his friends to do likewise. Those smart guys always have a silly grin on their face which betrays their utter glee at outsmarting the charging mob. Who needs a door when you can climb in through the window, huh? All this while, the battle rages on (cue the gate falling off and the mate shouting obscenities at the masses, who could care less about the gate right now).
You hear a ripping sound and hope against hope that it’s not your clothes. It’s not. You’re choking now and gasping for breath as an elbow is stuck into your throat, your assailant not even bothering to look back at his fallen victim. You want to back out, but you’re too mashed in. The silent cry goes out to God for help, or deliverance, or the Second Coming, if that will end this ordeal. You push with all your remaining might. You get the last seat and settle in, furiously fanning yourself. A lady inside is beckoning to one unfortunate chap who’s just missed the bus to please pass her basket through the window to her, since she’s left it next to the koko seller. “Poor guy,” you say to yourself with a smile.
At that moment the mate returns from buying bofrot for the driver, who’s watching with amusement (with what he has quietly witnessed, it might as well have been popcorn). Then the mate looks at you with a blank look on his face and shouts for all the world to hear the words you don’t need to hear when you’re already horribly late, sweating and very peeved: “Massa, aye ma oo. No overload.” (Translation: Master, it’s full. We’re not overloading the car.) You do everything but bribe the scruffy kid, but you know he’s right.
You get down fuming, your efforts wasted, and eye the approaching trotro in the distance. The mate’s finger is enthusiastically swirling in the air. It’s going to Circle. All hope disappears when you see that there’s space for only one passenger. You mutter to yourself, “here we go again,” as you time your run, secure your phone, secure your wallet and get those hands ready, ‘cos it’s time to clear a path to the Promised Land, and woe betides any who dare get in your way.