A Luta Continua (The Struggle Continues)

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 arrives.

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.


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 twin boys Mark and Andrew, 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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37 Responses to A Luta Continua (The Struggle Continues)

  1. Fo Johnny says:

    Good one there Nana. Remember those struggles vividly. Once took the windows myself. Felt so good. The most ineteresting part is when u finish the struggling to get in only for the mate to tell you “en kor bebia”……..

    • Kwaku Dankwa says:

      You’re kidding! You actually had the courage to do it? Man, I’ve shoved my way through with both elbows, but the window one … Hehehehe!

      • Francis Adu-Gyamfi says:

        Your legs are just too long for that kind of action. lol!

      • Fo Johnny says:

        It was either that or another long wait n man I was hungry hahahahaha

      • Sydney says:

        man Trust me! i’ve tried the window move before. That was after this old lady had given me an elbow to make her way into the trotro. it felt good after i got in. Interestingly i found maself sitting next to this drunk dude! The fumes alone… Masaa it was a trip to remember.

  2. Francis Adu-Gyamfi says:

    This one was exceedingly funny. But the intro and content are slightly misaligned. You might wanna check the voice used before your many readers come around.

  3. Akosua says:

    I feel like I’ve been waiting for this for ages. It’s been worth the wait though, seriously got me laughing to tears. And of course, my colleagues are wondering if all is well. Climbing through the window at the back.. lol? Please tell me you’ve never done so yourself. The ripping sound.. Haha, you can always tell when someone’s had that awful experience cause whatever reason, they’ll stitch it back together with a different color thread, bright red, or sometimes green for khaki pants and you imagine how terrible that looks.

    • Dannie says:

      Hahahahaha! Oh this is a good one! I’ve even had a ripping sound or two myself and each time it was my favourite piece of clothing! It sucked big time! you seem to cover every terrible experience i’ve ever had with a touch of humor. Don’t worry, very soon we’ll have our own cars and overtake those juniors we used to bully in school.lol.

  4. ecapghana says:

    Haahaha I picture the struggle through the animal kingdom! Or a pack of vultures fighting over meat!! hahaha this is a good one.

  5. richard doe says:

    lol…this was one interesting read man. never tried the window thing before…but i’m sure i’ll get a chance one day soon!

  6. Raj says:

    Why does the ripping always have to be a right angle shape/tear (which ever qualifies it) and always at a place where sowing it back will be soo soo obivious, (on the seat of the trouser or the sleeve of the shirt / blouse). oh oh oh asemooo. enjoyed every bit of it keep it up.

    • Chika says:

      lol. oh my! i totally agree with you Raj! they’re always torn in that shape. i remember what i went through on my way home after school sometimes. I had to buy new uniforms all the time. lol

    • Mambozoma says:

      right on about shape of the rip!!! and where it always happens, oh my gudness!!! why is that????

  7. Adwoa says:

    lol. Kuks this is tooooooooooo much! hahaha. i luv “massa ay{ ma o”

  8. Ama says:

    This entry puts me in mind of an absolutely hysterical video doing the rounds on YouTube some years ago – commuter hell in Tokyo. The platform attendants’ job descriptions seemed to include shoving passengers onto the train by any means necessary. I was on the floor laughing my head off any time I watched it, and I would probably have the same response to these your early morning antics : )

  9. Ama Amissah says:

    Kuuku… This is just brilliant!!!

  10. Bonsu Oboahyen says:

    That’s a good one. Remember the ‘bone shaker’ days? After being one of the fortunate ones not to have taken the mate’s portion of the ‘bench’, you get off at your destination only to realise the white shirt you were wearing was no longer white but a different colour. What do you get when you blend ‘mfuturo’ (dust), exhaust fumes and white together? Your guess is as good as mine.

  11. Kofi says:

    Kweku, I went through the ordeal of fighting to get onto the trotro five times one evening unsuccessfully. After the fifth attempt it started drizzling. I painfully walked straight to the next parked Taxi with the little money on me and picked a “drop” home drenched in water. Thanks for bringing back memories.

  12. Law says:

    Hehehehe…..memories…not so fond, though. Makes it worse if you walked from the office to Circle.

    Sweet piece, Kwaku…absolutely enjoyed it!

  13. sharl says:

    Kwaku, very good one here. i read it very early at work this morning. You know i cant make loud noises here so i had tears falling from my eyes trying to keep the laughter in. it’s getting better now i must say but i still think you should watch the way you start it.But i sooooo love the way you ended it. Good work man. another Dracula event for you.lol.

  14. Kwamepocho says:

    REPEAT!! SECURE YOUR PHONE AND WALLETS!!…mayne I saw a fast one pulled on this guy eh. As he sat down and checked his pockets he let out a fiery scream, and raged on about losing his phone. My word! you could sense his anger and anguish at losing something valuable under conditions so intolerable!!

  15. Guy Lou says:

    Another good work. But dare i say there is “an appealing disjoint” between the intro and the rest of the story.

  16. Dee says:

    Brilliant piece!!! You had me laughing all the way!!! Once again, being your fellow trotro taker, i can TOTALLY relate!! I once had my kaba skirt ripped as i got down a trotro in front of my church on Sunday morning and once climbed through the window with the help of my cousin at Tema Station. We’d been standing in a queue forever. When the trotro came, the line suddenly disappeared and it was every man for himself! Looking at the mob at the gate, the window was the only option. hehehehe. Eiiii…asem ooo

  17. Agyakomaa says:

    it pays to be as amall as myself. you either get preference cos you are seen as a little school girl going to school…..or you can easily wiggly under arms securing gates. the fun part is when you get to swing/jump unto a moving troski before it stops for the bigger people to fight for a seat. teeheeeheee. thank God i am small. it pays to be small

  18. Papa Kweku Abeiku says:

    This is beautiful…just beautiful..couldn’t have written it better myself. ‘masa aye ma wai’….the number of time i have hated to hear that..hehehe

  19. slimpo says:

    I have done the “window entry” before and believe me it’s not that bad. And you know what?? When you see that the car is not going to stop where you are, you just jump and hang on to the gate. Really cool.lol.

  20. adjetey says:

    brilliant piece. just couldnt help laughing. brought back memmories of legon . when man was struggling at the bust stop for trotro. the description is so vivid. thumbs up. i also agree watch the beginning. good piece tho

  21. Ama says:

    I don’t get it, what is wrong with the beginning? Artistic licence, people!

  22. Mambozoma says:

    this was sooooooooooo funny!!! And I appreciated it more cos although they aren’t the best of memories, I can actually laugh at them!

    Honestly though, I don’t get what people are saying about the beginning … unless of course it has been deleted since I’m reading this late? Because this beginning I’m seeing sets a very good tone for the ‘aluta’ that comes later. I mean I get the rush and how that would make you dread the daily fight bcos as it is u know u are late, and then feeling massive relief, which plummets down to your toes when the car moves away … I honestly think it was a good start. Highlights the different moods very well.

  23. Kofi Opoku says:

    This is absolutely fantastic. Damn you’re good!

  24. Omoiya says:

    Great writing bro. I am Nigerian and can completely relate with the article…We even have a saying that ‘wetin concern agbero (i.e. mate) with overload’? Meaning the ‘mate’ could care less about overload…if not for the police that might pull him over to collect ‘something’…

    • Kwaku Dankwa says:

      Collect ‘something’. You can say that again! I’m resisting the urge to write on the police in Accra. Good old Africa…

      Hope you enjoyed the other articles on the blog.

  25. AB says:

    This is one hell of a slap-stick hilarious piece. Another trick, if u are small and you can pull of an angelic face (you have to have both qualities) is to duck and slip into the tro tro under the arm of the one person who guards the door for himslef and then when u settle comfortably into his to-be-seat pull the innocent look at him as he glares. Bliss! Experience is the best teacher.

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