Fighting Fare

Most trotro rides follow the same script. On my route I scramble in at Bridge, the mate waits for everyone to catch their breath while he shouts for a few more commuters (sells his seat when he can) and at the same spot every day, he organizes his coins, arranges and folds his notes longitudinally, counts a few for good measure, raises his head and says rather matter-of-factly, “Yee-eesss”. Time to pay up.

Usually, it’s without hassle, but every now and then, a few disagreements ensue over the little matter of change. More often than not the passenger shouts a bit, but backs down, shaking her head and muttering that these mates are all cheats. In the end, the mate wins. Most of the time. Nothing, I repeat, nothing, could prepare one mate for his date with destiny.

This trotro’s shock absorbers were dead. It felt like falling down a never-ending flight of stairs. But that’s nothing in comparison to what was to come. Two elderly ladies hopped in at Tetteh Quarshie, happily chatting. Not too long after, the familiar cry went out, “Yee-eesss”. Money changed hands peacefully. Soon, I heard one of them shout from behind in Twi, “Mate, our balance.” Without even glancing at them he replied that he owed them nothing. Apparently, they were expecting 5 Pesewas each. That wasn’t going to happen. He was adamant about it too. Talks quickly broke down. I could hear loud war drums in the distance.

(Now, this mate was rude and coarse-mannered. That had been established earlier. He was ready to descend into the gutter with anyone anywhere, damn the consequences.)

Without warning, the onslaught started. One of the elderly ladies shot back in Twi that he was a cheat, would go to hell when he died, and was young enough to be her grandson. The mate wasn’t amused. He’d heard it millions of times. He said he wasn’t her grandson and that if she didn’t have money, she should just say so. This touched a raw nerve. Her friend let the venom flow in torrents. It was bloody. I don’t speak Ga, but I could understand the crude references to sensitive sections of the mate’s mother’s anatomy. The rest was mercifully left to my imagination. The first lady poured out insults of her own. It was a ruthless two-pronged attack of Twi and Ga. The mate couldn’t utter a word. Neither was the driver going to get involved. He knew as much as we all did that his loud-mouthed understudy had picked his battle and would have to fight it.

At first, it was funny. People were trying to calm down the two terrorists to no avail. It seemed to just spur them on. The mate – and by now I felt sorry for him – just sat there, telling those closest to him that he wouldn’t mind them. His squeezed face told a different story (picture the look on someone’s face on a biting cold and dry harmattan morning). These were bitter village insults. Those people who sit in palaces across Ghana and speak heavy Twi which nobody understands would cringe, I tell you. The mate must’ve been regretting picking this tag-team, or even the day he decided to become a mate. Heck, he was probably regretting leaving the safe confines of his half-acre pepper farm in his hometown to seek greener pastures in Accra. I knew they’d go on till the last stop.

But then, I’ve seen enough trotro fights to know that they’re not about the money. One day, a mate decided to swindle me of my 5 Pesewas too. I flared up. How dare he cheat me? Despite my shirt and tie, I lowered myself to tell the mate that he better give me my change, or else… Someone else would just punch him in the teeth. The thought of being cheated. That’s what turns gentlemen into uncivilized barbarians in trotros.

People reserve their worst for mates. Some don’t even wait for him to finish collecting all the money, and they’re threatening him. “Heh, mate! Where’s my change? You think you can cheat me, eh?” And this is just as soon as he has collected a GH¢20 note. At 6:15 am.

By the time I alighted at Ridge, each insult was cruder than the last. I remembered what this was all about: 5 Pesewas apiece. 5 Pesewas. And wounded pride. That earned the mate enough abuse to last him a lifetime or three. Anyone would feel sorry for him. Especially when he was right and the women were wrong.

This fellow didn’t learn his lesson. The next day, I scrambled into the same dude’s trotro. He had on the same singlet, same scowl and same attitude. Some people never learn.



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 Fighting Fare

  1. Ama says:

    Did he pay?????

  2. slimpo says:

    Hhaahahahahahahahah!!! I think this mate was actually lucky. I have seen a mate beaten over 5 pesewas before. Same scenario but this time when the passenger alighted, he decided to unleash a few slaps on the mate. The driver releasing his mate’s predicament decided to drive off so the mate can hang on in order to escape. This was a good plan until the pissed off passenger got hold of the mate’s shirt and pulled him back down. It took the intervention of about five other people to rescue the mate. But the mate went home without his shirt.

  3. Francis Adu-Gyamfi says:

    A cup of tea with a funny story. Life indeed is good.

  4. Fo Johnny says:

    Nice one. A duet of Ga and Twi insults, something I’ll definately want to listen to. Keep them coming Nana. 5 pesewas is 50 cedis right?

  5. Raj says:

    Nice and brilliant piece and truthfully must say it gets better every time. Well i have personally witnessed a mate being beaten too over change. Infact he got to dirty slaps i mean real dirty slaps before he handed over the change, and guess what followed…he wanted to unleash his anger and frustration on next passenger who “brought himself” i kept my peace until i got down and i had the courage to tell to next give out people’s change before he gets slapped and i quickly walked off.

    • Kwaku Dankwa says:

      I’m sure he’d have had some words for you if you hadn’t left when you did. Of course, he had to show everyone that he was in control of affairs. Asem oo…

  6. A true dat. Charlie, how many times have we not witnessed commuters gang up against the drivers mate???… They neva learn… abi??

  7. moshi says:

    gosh, hahahahahahahahah

    i didn’t think i was going to say anything about today’s commute. but before i got to the last full stop i knew what i wanted to pen down.

    men, your wording were just perfect for this one. loved it. and man, it brings me to my own story.
    i was returning from a church meeting that day, well we were about reaching this junction when a passenger shouted to the mate that he wanted to alight at the coming junction. the mate did his usual banging on the gate, to signify someone was to alight. the driver was still speeding and the passenger then shouted from the back to the driver, this was in ga( driver did you not hear that i wanted to alight here.). the driver shouted back,do you expect me to just stop abruptly. the passenger got offended at that statement and took the driver on by asking him does he know who he is talking to. the driver as young as he was thought he had his boys sitting beside him in the car. he gave a very sharp reply back to the guy. well, just as i was sitting behind the driver in the darkness as the bus stopped, i felt a heavy shadow of a matured adult by pass me and moved straight for the cheeks of the driver. paaa paaa paa. you would notice i used the expression a matured adult. well i think that fits the guy perfectly. three consecutive slaps to the driver’s cheeks. the passenger was interrupted by the mate, pulling and begging for his colleague the driver. the driver kept silent through the ordeal and the rest of the journey. men my head was spinning in smiles. imagine the hands of a military man or better still a fisher man. yh that was what did the magic that night. this time not the mate but the driver had his share of the magic of this particular commute.
    tanks man.

  8. Julian says:

    Been there, done that.
    I got into a similar fight once, this time it was the mate accusing me of not paying him. How dare he!! He hadnt been paying attention from the start of the journey, chatting loudly with his paddy the driver who was playing very loud music.
    To worsen the ordeal, some welded metal piece jutting out one of the seats tore my “semi-designer” khaki when is was getting out of the vehicle!
    God save us.

    • Kwaku Dankwa says:

      That thing dey bore! The mate, he won’t look who he’s collected money from, then he wants to bring trouble. Oh, so the trabo to got torn? Matter oo…

  9. Aunty May says:

    You didn’t forget us this time, Bravo. The prints came out just fine, thanks!

  10. Kwame Boateng says:

    Rotflmao….me likey!!

  11. Anyan says:

    beautifully written. this is communication, well done bruv!

  12. Anyan says:

    i do mehn, soo much so that i’m even writing one 4 my blog. the tro tro is an endless pot of inspiration.
    i’m usually not this spontaneous, but i’d like to feature this post on my blog lemme know if you’re cool with that.

  13. kofidodzi says:

    lololz…hilarious man…i like the way you told this one. can totally relate…good one!

  14. Peter Nsubi Brown says:

    this is literature at its best. the lexicon great. the suspense wonderful, even though most of us knew what the end will be. infact keep writing these almost-perfect pieces. my only problem is the use of semi-colons. it seem to be replaced by full stops. but that story is wonderful. i burst out laughing in my cafe when i read it. how i wish it can be published for all who understand and can speak English to comprehend the fun of reading. i dnt like reading but i tell you, if you should bring more of this, i will personally publish it for you….wonderful….wonder…won

    • Kwaku Dankwa says:

      Peter, thanks for doing the reading! You should read the ones that came before. As for the semi-colons, well, I felt I could be a little less formal. More of these, you say? If you’ll do the reading, I’ll do the writing. In two weeks you’ll have another hilarious one to read. Sounds like you’ve seen a few trotro fights yourself. Spread the word, man!

  15. Mambozoma says:

    oh my word!! I don’t know why I decided to read this in the library when everyone is busy peering cross – eyed into their books, with final exams breathing down our necks!! I’m sure a few curses have whizzed past my ears, cos my laugh was no small joke!! this is another good one Kwaku, and the best part is how much we can all relate to these stories!! someway, somehow, I miss my trotro days!

    • Kwaku Dankwa says:

      Reading in the library? That’s a no-no! But of course, it’s better than not reading at all. I can actually see you ‘joosing’ a mate for your change. Hehehehe…!

  16. Mambozoma says:

    oh, and I noticed the title my bruv, nice.

  17. Julia says:

    Love this one! This is my 1st comment on asomasi’s notes. You’re definately only getting better. I like the way your pieces flow but i do admit that a struggled a little with the one just before this one.

    I agree with the ‘semi-colon’ issue; use it a bit more. My only other reservation is with the use of the expression ‘squeezed his face’. I remember one of our English teachers was appalled by that expression even though we still use it in our ‘everyday’ language. It’s a Ghanaian expression (i believe it’s literal translation from vernacular).

    Can’t wait for the next article; write on Kwaku!

  18. Kwadan says:

    These things will never happen on a Labadi trotro

  19. Emefa says:

    God, I miss trotros….

  20. Dee says:

    Good read!! You crack me up every time!

  21. Sebastian says:

    It is so annoying that it drives me crazy.But i have two strategies that i use.First I either make sure i have the exact amount and give it out and when the mate mutters out “Massa akah 5 pesewas”,I tell him that is the amount they always charge me and after some few murmurings he gives up and i don’t get cheated.Secondly, i give probably 1 cedi out and if the change is not up to the amount i return the change to him and tell him “For him to cheat me out of 5 pesewas then she should take all the money and then use the magic phrase “He will pay back a thousand fold”.And that puts some fear in him.But sometimes i meet some stubborn mates who are not perturbed and in that situation i loose my money which does not really hurt me compared to making a fight in public.But the trotro business can make one unleash his craziest attitude in public rather than in private.ut i have got angry and said some wild things before and even used the ‘F’ word before.God help us all.

  22. Julian says:

    Son, then you must have boarded your whole life but the mate deserved that cos their all cheats. Hahahaha liked the mother’s anatomy part that was funny. Next time try boarding a chorkor troski.

  23. joy says:

    hahahaha, that was a real funny read and very typical of trotro mates and passengers alike. I must admit though that when you do have your own car and buy fuel for a couple of years in a country like ours, you will appreciate the comic relief offered in public transport. You will certainly never ever argue or haggle over small change. Come to think of it, being a trotro mate is no mean task, you need to deal with market women, graduates, doctors, lawyers, students etc. most of whom are always in a big hurry and never have as much money as they would like at their disposal. One ought to marvel that a mate is expected to serve each of these people and still hold his peace. Well i think the mates need to be given a break from the tedium of his job by having sparring sessions from time to time.

  24. Adjoa says:

    …..bitter village insults….. I’m cracking up!

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