One rather tired headline appears in the papers every year without fail: “The Rains Are Here Again”. Sometimes, it’s on an editorial, sometimes on the front page above pictures of chamber pots, fridges and lotto kiosks floating gently in the infamous Odawna Gutter, on a one-way cruise to parts unknown.
Rain changes the dynamics of commuting a little bit as well, and woe betides you if you’re not prepared. Indeed, the rains are here again.
I so hate to go out in the rain because I just can’t stand the drops landing on me. Thank God for umbrellas. I make the short walk to Bridge and wait. And shiver. The road is deserted, because everyone is where I wish I was: snuggled up under warm sheets.
Soon, a trotro comes by, the over-enthusiastic mate shooting one finger repeatedly into the air and yelling, “Accla claa!” That’s me. So we travel in an almost empty Accra-bound trotro for a good part of the journey, observing the bare sidewalks and streets. I laugh a bit at the man shaking his fist at a trotro that splashed water on him.
At 37, there’s an opportunistic umbrella seller balancing a wide array of umbrellas on her head, inflating the price at least three times the normal. And why not? Surely, an expensive umbrella is better than that unflattering black polythene bag on your head, isn’t it?
You see, for whatever reason, it’s not cool to be carrying an umbrella around. But then again, there’s nothing cool about being wet either. Carrying an umbrella, though, can be embarrassing. Like once, I went to the University of Ghana, dark clouds overhead. By the time I was done with what I was doing (not a drop fell, by the way) and ready for the next leg of my journey to Sakumono, I felt like a big fool, carrying my big umbrella as the sun sprayed gentle rays through the clear sky.
One day, as I walked briskly through a gentle shower, I saw a beggar making quite a show of very ogyacious prayer under a tree… obviously pleading the rains to miraculously cease for work to continue. I shook my head and walked off.
The whole rain experience is one I try to avoid if I can. After work one fateful day, I took the short walk to Circle. I ignored the black clouds overhead, deceiving myself that in Accra, even thunder and lightning were no guarantee of rain. My happy tune I’d whistled along turned into a desperate prayer as the clouds grew more menacing. After a short push from his friends, the driver had the trotro coughing along, just as the first heavy drops touched down. Outside, poor commuters were running like headless chickens, searching for non-existent shelter.
Our driver took a shortcut, bypassing 37 and gunning towards Achimota. At first, I was kicking myself for sitting next to a window that was stuck shut, but as the wind grew stronger and the drizzle got heavier, I noticed that the window behind me was stuck open! I didn’t envy the poor lady next to it one bit as she shrieked in horror at the rain whipping in without warning. It took all the might of the macho next to her to close it and keep her dry.
Suddenly, I heard rushing water. Believe it or not, it was raining in the car! I have no idea whether the water was streaming in through a crack all the way across the back or what, but it was a waterfall back there. The water was draining out through the rusted floor. I reckon that at that point, the drenched back three would be better off dancing like lunatics outside in the pouring rain.
You’d think that was bad enough. This driver must have thought he was on the race tracks of Monaco practicing to be the next Michael Schumacher. He was speeding down that bumpy road as if he was fleeing from ghosts, and overtaking like real life Need For Speed. One hit from another car and we’d be right there in front of the Judgement Throne.
Only one wiper was working. It wasn’t on the driver’s side. He’d stick his hand out and wipe his windscreen. Passengers were questioning, loud enough for him to hear, whether he was smoking wee. I don’t know whether it was in acknowledgement of his driving skills or because of his short dreadlocks tucked wretchedly under a winter cap (in the tropics).
He took us over another rough section of road with no intention of slowing down. Enough! I whipped out my phone and wrote in 160 characters my last will and testament to my best friend. The only reason I didn’t demand to get down was because we were so out of my way by now, and, well, it was pounding outside. The driver didn’t care what people were saying. He charged on like nobody’s business.
Shaken and grateful to be alive at Bridge after being jostled about for the last few minutes of my life, I wobbled straight to bed soon after, the dreadlocked driver’s image firmly burnt onto my memory. Amazingly, it hadn’t rained a drop in my area!
P.S. The Daily Commute has been published fortnightly for a while. I will be experimenting with a weekly post in the coming weeks. Thanks for doing the reading.