Wonsi mpia! (Get down and push!)

There I was, stranded at the side of the road at Golokwati. Mind you, this is a long way from Bridge, or Ridge, for that matter. The bonnet of the old Toyota Land Cruiser I was sitting in only 30 minutes earlier, bringing me home from the Volta Region, was open with frowning mechanics peering in. My clothes were dirty from all the pushing, and my arms and legs were begging me to quit this futile exercise. The car had obviously called it a day.

I slumped next to the luggage, gasping. As I sat, hoping for an Accra-bound trotro to come by, my mind took me to the times I’ve smiled to myself anytime I’d seen frustrated commuters in similar predicaments in Accra.

It starts like this. You get to the bus stop before the early morning rush. Spoiled for choice, you decide to take the nicer trotro. Why settle for the bucket of bolts when you can travel in relative comfort?

Soon, the jerking begins. The driver explains that it’s nothing. The engine’s just a little cold from last night’s rain. Okay. By this time, the mate has already collected his coins. As the jolting gets more violent and the murmuring in the car gets a little bit louder, one lady angrily tells the mate that she’s had enough and wants to get down. Not happening. Sensing a mass walk-out, it looks like the unruly scoundrel will hold out till the engine falls to pieces before surrendering a pesewa.

Five minutes later, it doesn’t get any better, but then, it’s not getting any worse, so everyone is just offering silent prayers, consciously or unconsciously, that we can at least get to a convenient place to make a quick retreat for a more reliable car. Then, without warning, the inevitable happens. Just as soon as the traffic light turns green. Wild horses couldn’t make the car move an inch. The simultaneous honking from behind starts more forcefully than Beethoven’s 5th Symphony. The onlookers’ stares are annoying. The driver is shouting words of assurance he himself doesn’t believe as he yanks his door open. Then the bonnet. The mate steels his face, ready to fight to the bitter end before yielding any of his hard-earned coins to any of us, the ever ungrateful passengers.

As you sit fuming in the car, you cast your gaze to your right, and here comes the trotro you didn’t offer a second glance, rattling along, past you, and into the gentle stream of cars ahead, billows of smoke pouring out from the exhaust pipe. Away. Hurts like a kick in the family jewels.

The frustration of having to wait on a broken down trotro

There are all sorts of scenarios that could come into play here. I saw one group of commuters all getting down at the Tetteh Quarshie Interchange, their Benz 207 parked at the side of the road in slow-moving traffic. Vapour (or was it smoke?) was coming from under the bonnet, while they all stood around looking rather irritated. That, in my opinion, is the worst possible location for a breakdown. There you are, in full view of all the travellers from Adenta, Madina, East Legon and even the Spintex Road. Embarrassing. At least, in a situation like this the mate gives you a hand-out. Downside is, you have to endure the short walk of shame together to the next bus stop.

But the one that carries the cake, is when the trotro has hope of starting again. The mate gets down and disappears behind the car. No passenger steps out, because we’re all too busy grumbling. Suddenly, we feel gentle nudges from the back. The mate is finally able to work up enough momentum till the car begins to move. A strong jolt and we’re running again. How some of these skinny boys are able to push these cars alone until they start baffles me completely. Sometimes, he gets some help from a yoghurt seller or two.

I’ve always wanted to know, though: why don’t the passengers at least get down to lighten the load for the poor guy? I guess it’s his just reward for putting the honourable passengers through the humiliation of breaking down in full glare of passing workmates and potential spouses. No self-respecting passenger has got down, as far as I know, to help to push. Let the mate earn his pay.

So, have you ever been left for dead on the roadside in Accra?

As we left Golokwati behind us with the Land Cruiser at a local mechanic’s for the night, I just prayed against the day that I would meet a similar fate somewhere on my way to work. On that day, I will not push. I’ll just count my losses and walk away, lamenting my judging based on outward appearances and neglecting to jump out the moment I heard the first knocking sound from the engine. After all, anything can happen on any given trip between Bridge and Ridge.



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.
This entry was posted in Tales from a trotro. Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to Wonsi mpia! (Get down and push!)

  1. Francis Adu-Gyamfi says:

    This boy needs to be shot. I bet if the Driver’s Mates Union of Ghana read this, you will end up in jail for defaming their profession.


  2. Raj says:

    Another excellent piece in the kitty. Well done for capturing it so vividly. I have seen a lot of this scenario either on my way home or to work and i feel quite sad for those people. One early morning at Bridge I saw stranded passengers who had been picked either from A&C or Ajiringano and its environs waiting for the next car to come. I just knew that it was going to be a real hectic time for all of them because by the time the next car gets to Bridge it will already be full or just a seat left for the passenger who would be able to bulldoze his or her way through the thicket of passengers and claim the ride regardless of stepping on toes, knees, heads and whatever you can think of. Once again well done.

  3. Dee says:

    Loved it! I’m all smiles! These parts cracked me up.

    “…with frowning mechanics peering in.”
    “Why settle for the bucket of bolts…”
    “The simultaneous honking from behind starts more forcefully than Beethoven’s 5th Symphony.”
    “…the humiliation of breaking down in full glare of passing workmates and potential spouses.”

    One Saturday the trotro I was in broke down and while I was standing by the bus stop waiting for another trotro, John, who was driving by, stopped and pulled over. The rest is history. LOL. So sometimes it aint so humiliating 😉

  4. Ama says:

    So you will push in Golokwati but not in Accra?!

  5. Kwadan says:

    Its more painful when it happens at night

  6. Akosua says:

    Now this I absolutely love! The drivers know very well that the buses ought to be at the workshop but NO!!!!!! They’d rather keep them on the road till they break down completely. All for a couple extra bucks which the real vehicle owner never gets. Yeah, I agree having to get out of a broken down troski at Tetteh Quashie would really suck. That would be the moment I wish for the ground to open and swallow me up.

    And don’t forget those drivers whom for some absurd reason rely on a gallon of petrol to make a zillion trips. I can never understand them cause they usually have more than enough money to fill the entire tank.

    This was no doubt a great read and the humor was exactly what I needed for this time of day. Keep up the brilliant work!

  7. Law says:

    You always have me in giggles!. I’m all cracked up, envisioning it all. What were you doing at Golokwati in the first place?

  8. elorm says:

    I am busting with laughter. You brought it home. One would think that they deserve their fate considering the cars they put out there for us. It is difficult enough hopping into a trotro in some part of town, let alone getting down to push…

  9. amma says:

    nice piece

  10. Yohan says:

    Ghana for you…! Where else can one possibly experience such wonderful occurrences?!!

  11. Jeous says:

    I dnt know where u get ur expressions from but then, u assemble them really well. Well done

  12. adwoa says:

    potential spouses. u got that right!
    trotro breakdowns are sooooo embarrassing eh, as if sitting in the trotro alone is not bad enough!
    lol. kuks, u r the best!

  13. RAY JAY says:

    Wow..i had 2 stop and let u kno how awesom dis piece is…its gr8.

  14. Dannie says:

    Hahaha O I have experienced this first hand. The trotro I was sitting in broke down smack in front of GBC…o the horror and the shame! I just gathered my pride and paid a visit to my friend by force!

  15. Edward says:

    Hahahaha, you almost had me lol in the office.

    “more painful than a kick in the family jewels?” still chortling over that.

    But seriously, I’m glad that I’ve never had to experience that. What would be worse though is if your private car broke down in the same place.

    Paraphrased from “Things Fall Apart”,

    If the group fails (i.e. a trotro breaks down) you can still survive because the group fails (i.e. you can hide within the crowd.)

    If a person fails alone (if your car breaks down) he feels it more keenly. (everybody knows /sees that YOUR car has broken down.)

    in short a public shame is better than individual disgrace.

  16. Kwaku Dankwa says:

    Hehehe! Wonderful stories on here. Going to find a friend to visit by force. Nice diversion there, huh? But if it happens at night, you better pick a dropping and hope there are people with money at home, or you may have to find out how to ghost on the taxi driver. I mean, why not make the shame complete?

    So, why would I push in Golokwati but not in Accra? Well, for one, nobody can see me in Golokwati. Secondly, if I wouldn’t push, how’d I get to Accra?!

    I guess that’s why it’s true that you should prefer the trotro broke down instead of your own car, huh? You can always walk away, head bowed, but walk away all the same to fight another day. Let the driver find the mechanic on his own.

    • DANNIE says:

      oh tell me about me…me kraa as I walked for over thirty minutes to my friend’s house, I just wondered why I didn’t take dropping and make my mom pay.lol. But at least I didn’t have to push. In fact I wouldn’t not pushed even if they paid me to. I greatly dislike trotros and the stinky armpit mates and drivers! I tell you one time I had the unfortunate event of sitting in the front middle seat and aside from the gear brushing against my leg with every movement, the driver smelt worse than a month’s worth of laundry.

  17. moshi says:

    . just like the face that, i can imagine every bit of the story when it is told. and it best relates to what i have experienced. nice piece man. gud start for the morning……..

  18. Fo Johnny says:

    What were u doing in Kuwait? Hope you were able to go back for your Land Cruiser. Hey when your troski breaks down at Tetteh Quashies, get down and push. Some Nyornuvi correct might save you from your misery lol. Nice piecs. Keep them coming.

  19. Sebastian says:

    Geez u d man.I remember one time i was in a queue at old Achimota station and when the trotro came there was a rush for the few seats.I surprisingly used the window to get onboard.As if it was a rehearsed miscarrage the trotro broke down at Lapaz even though we were supposed to be delivered at Mallam.After all my window climbing karate and judo skills i had a miscarriage to add insult to my plight of running tummy.Can you imagine and it was in the heart of Lapaz at the rush hour when the fight for trotro was at its peak.

  20. Nicholas says:

    Very funny . Got me laughing so hard. Brings back awesome memories back home.
    love ur pieces Kwaku. do keep it up. have a good one

  21. niiquart says:

    That was cool. Keep it up Kwaku.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s