It’s not called ‘public’ transport for nothing. The public is made up of people, and people, well, have their own traits that rub us all a bit differently. Or am I just being a bit selfish?
I like quiet trips. I try to carry a book or a magazine or something with me (I’m presently reading British magazines). But there’s a reason I can’t get any reading done in the confines of the smoke-coughing trotro. Noise. For whatever reason, I can stand the engine sounding off like two stone age men clubbing themselves silly over a piece of salted dinosaur thigh. I can stand the babies’ piercing cries that could shatter glass and bone. I can even stand the revolting snorting and throat-clearing, but what I can’t stand is … the phones. Welcome to the 21st century.
So, there was this one day when all the phones around me seemed to be ringing. China phones, mostly, with their distinct ringtones.
It didn’t help much that we were caught in the thick of traffic. The clearly frustrated driver was trying to meander his way through anything which remotely resembled a short cut. No luck there. He was impatiently mumbling to himself in no time. Outside, the sun was spitting out painful rays, each pricking the nerves so sharply, you’d think we were at war with the universe. I was slowly getting irritable.
Then, somewhere around 37 Military Hospital, a shrill version of the Bridal March sounded over the loud knocking of the engine. The driver didn’t bother turning down the radio’s volume for his passenger. My neck was rotating like an owl’s, looking for the guilty party. I imagined a newly-wed who had chosen to relive her happy day with each phone call. From two rows back, I heard this gruff voice with a thick Ga accent say hello and go on in Ga. Since I couldn’t understand Ga even with a loaded gun to my head, I was left to wonder why of all his ringtones he chose the Bridal March.
I think the only ringtone worse than that is “Jingle Bells”. In June. Oh, and “Happy Birthday to You”. Happy birthday to who? Yourself? A few years ago, it was fashionable to change your ringtone to match the season. Those were the Dark Ages of mobile telephony, the days when the polyphonic ringtone was the in thing.
My jaw dropped to the rusted floor when I heard him say in Ga, “I’m at Kaneshie”. Looks like I was the only one who was surprised at the poor man’s obvious unawareness of his present location, because nobody even flinched.
Now, since I don’t know what he was talking about, I have no idea if he was talking to the same person the second time the Bridal March interrupted the stillness of the atmosphere. Or the third. Or the sixth. Obviously, the bride was having trouble reaching the altar, because that tune rang up every few minutes all the way from 37 till I got down! And each pam-pam-papammmm was driving me up the walls. The steam coming out of my ears could cook kenkey. I couldn’t get out of the car faster when we arrived at Ridge. The Bridal March serenaded me out.
A constantly ringing phone is bad enough. A phone that NEVER stops ringing is more maddening than a skipping CD. A phone starts ringing. The track’s still playing. I wonder why the owner isn’t picking up. It goes on and on … and then, I realize that it’s some scrawny youth with a scowl on his pimply face playing some music that he assumes everyone is interested in. Frankly, I don’t think he cares.
(“Aha aye de oo, aha aye de oo oo oo, baabia awu!” Trotro? That’s where he says is nice and everywhere else is dead?) There he goes, the DJ, loudly blaring it for all to hear. What’s worse, the playlist is never right. First a hip-hop track plays, then some ballad. I remember secretly warming up to a song once, but just as I was about to hum along to the chorus, Mr. DJ flipped the track and started singing tunelessly to some rubbish hip-life track. In my mind’s eye, I’d rammed his phone down his throat.
One time, there was this dude who took it to a whole new level. Radio! Forget about reading that book, son. The guy behind you insists on Obonu FM for us all. I turned to see who this was, and he was actually dozing, his head resting on the window.
These Troski DJs. I guess I just don’t have the courage to say, “Massa, you dey disturb we, or you sef, you no dey see?” Nobody seems to mind, so me, I just sit my somewhere, hoping that this traffic will clear up so that I can get out and leave them to enjoy their little party that they got going there, with the ‘Phoney DJ’ in his full element.