Occasionally, the will to fight vanishes into thin air. With one look at the multitude gathered, like they’re waiting for the five loaves and two fish to be multiplied again, I started looking over them for the nearest taxi. Yes, sometimes, even the most die-hard trotro loyalists have to go beyond.
Frankly, I’ve never been a fan of taxis, especially after I heard that two friends of mine got mugged. They weren’t even alone in the cabs. Anyone who knows KNUST, even slightly, knows that the road from Ayeduase Gate to Unity Hall is more straightforward than two times tables. Tell that to my friend who, within that short space, was graciously offered the choice between his laptop and an early reunion with his ancestors. So yes, I’m spooked. But sometimes, it becomes so necessary that one just has to put inhibition aside and take the plunge.
So, here I am walking towards the taxi, the only one at Bridge. It wasn’t exactly the most beautiful one I could’ve got, but then, I really had no choice. Besides, it looked like rain, and as usual, I had no umbrella. The dropping it is. Mr. Driver was dusting his car with meticulous swipes. Taxi drivers are always cleaning their cars, even in bumper-to-bumper traffic, or dusting the dashboard with the precision of an artist.
Within seconds we had concluded negotiations. As the struggling crowd grew smaller in the rear-view mirror, I could at least relax a bit. I’d almost forgotten how good it felt to have a taxi all to myself: leg room, choice of radio station (where a radio is available, mind you) and controlling the topic of conversation (if desired). Speaking of which, I once heard someone say, “No wonder the economy is in such bad shape. All the people with all the answers are either driving taxis or cutting hair,” but that’s for another post.
We gunned towards a short cut to dodge the traffic. Taxi drivers pride themselves in knowing all the lungu-lungus in town. Bumpy ride, but I didn’t dare use the seatbelt. I lived to regret it the first time I ever did that. I’ll never do it again. In no time the first drops splattered on the windscreen. I looked down to roll up. You guessed it. All that remained there was a stub that used to have a roller covering it. I reached forward and said, “Driver, I want a roller.”
Lucky me. At least, I got one before the heavens descended in all majesty. I half-expected some long winded story about how he had sent the car to the mechanic’s and this and that and this and that ad nauseum. This would usually end with him handing me a spanner to figure out how to roll up the window. In the trotro front seats the stub usually has a hole in it, so you stick a screwdriver in, picked up from under the rags on the dashboard, and turn like your life depended on it. You’d wish you’d spent more time in the gym.
But for me, the ultimate was when I was in Kumasi. A friend and I were in the back seat on our way from our hostel to campus when the rain came down with no warning. I quickly asked for a roller. The taxi driver looked back at me apologetically and handed me my lifesaver. I was giving it back when my friend said he needed it too. Once again, the driver looked back apologetically and with a stammer that came from nowhere, confessed that the roller wouldn’t work there. He fished around and handed my friend a different roller with a sheepish grin stretched across his face. A different roller for each door. The driver had a quiet laugh, obviously tickled himself.
Automatic windows are not the answer either. I have a silly habit of trying them the moment I see that the taxi’s windows are automatic. Probably because it’s been only about ten years since I saw an automatic window for the first time. Yes, that recently. Most of those don’t work either … except from the drivers’ side. I think it’s just something they like, the feeling of being in control of whether the paying passenger gets wet, hot or a messed up hair-do on a windy Monday morning.
Now, you all know I’m a trotro regular, and don’t know much about what happens in taxis. Maybe you can tell me what it’s like? Similar roller happenings? Awkward taxi moments, maybe?
Except for speeding through almost every red light we reached, the driver spending half the time talking on the phone, and constantly digging for gold in his nasal cavity, it was the kind of trip that could almost get me used to taxis. So, do I trade in the relative pampering of taxis for the chaos of the ‘transport of the people’? Not a chance.