Lost and found out

It had been a hard fight. Anyone who was able to get into the trotro deserved a medal. All the tricks had been used, from grabbing the front door handle while the car was still in motion to climbing through the back window, hanging on to the door as the trotro came to a halt, and even slipping under people’s arms as they jammed the entrance. The mate was standing aside with the best view, absent-mindedly sucking his koko like it was The Last Supper.

Along we went, each passenger cooling off one way or the other. The only person speaking was Kwame Sefa-Kayi on Peace FM. Even the mate was collecting his money in silence, with his half-emptied rubber bag of koko dangling from his lips like a puppy with a stolen sock from the neighbour’s laundry. All of a sudden, a tiny lady asked from the back in Twi, “Mate, is the car going to Labadi?”

If it were a movie, you’d hear a screeching sound and everyone would turn and look at her in utter shock. This was real life, yet it happened just like that … minus the screech. Labadi? I almost burst out laughing. Whoever gave this lady directions didn’t have any good intention for her. To mislead her so callously was nothing short of cruel. Her struggle to get in with her two polythene bags had been in vain.

Getting into the wrong car. It’s not only embarrassing, it’s a waste of time and money. Being lost in Accra is no joke. It happens when you don’t know where you’re going. Or when you’ve overconfidently gone to sit in a trotro at a station like the car owner, certain that you know which bus is moving.

When, ooh when, will we have numbered buses?

Take me. Here I was, having to go to the dentist’s at Korle-Bu before going to work. I’ve been to Korle-Bu so many times I could locate the trotro with my eyes shut. The first red flag was that everyone in it was speaking Ga. Sat on the long seat, my poor ribs were squashed on both sides. To compound my problem we were moving with all the urgency of a snail on tranquilizers, coughing out billows of smoke, certainly boring a yawning hole into the ozone layer. Each change of the gear sent a grating sound through the bus. I was in for a long ride.

Or maybe not.

The second red flag. We didn’t go towards High Street, but headed for the Independence Square. I’d taken this route a hundred times, but I stupidly thought the driver was going to turn at the roundabout. Then the mate called out the first bus stop. Already? It didn’t even sound familiar. Then the second. We were almost at the turning to the Castle. It must’ve been slow motion in my head, because it only just knocked me between the eyes that I was in the Osu trotro! Since they’re parked side by side at the station I had jumped into the wrong one. That’s what you get for feeling too big to ask. My dental appointment was shot.

Without trying to sound too desperate, I told the mate I wanted out. No need to explain why I was getting down before the first bus stop. It was obvious. (Don’t you just hate it when someone is getting down earlier than he had expected and says to himself, but to everyone’s hearing, “Oh, me kraa, I have to see the carpenter here before I go to Accra oo. Mate, bus stop!”) The driver slammed the brakes, surging us all forward. Some Ga sentences were directed at him. Or me. None sounded remotely familiar. I just got out seething. I could’ve kicked myself for being so cocky. Now I was paying the price, going all the way back to Tema Station, egg on my face.

But spare a thought for the weary traveler, sleeping on the well-worn Ghana-Must-Go bag on his lap at night. He was on the back seat of my home-bound trotro. The jerking of the car at my stop must’ve awoken him. He asked with sleepy eyes the woman next to him, “Are we almost at 37? I don’t know there, so …” I felt a stab in my chest as the fake sympathy began to flow from the same people who hadn’t remembered – me inclusive – that he had said he would get down at 37 before succumbing to his slumbers. I escaped the uncomfortable scene behind me and walked towards my bush path home.

So, tell me. Have you ever missed your stop or taken the wrong car altogether and got hopelessly lost on the streets of Accra? What was that like?

Wouldn’t it be just a little bit easier if we had numbers on the buses for each route? I know I won’t miss looking like an idiot if ever I were to hop onto the wrong trotro.


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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15 Responses to Lost and found out

  1. Fi says:

    hilarious but how do i stretch my neck to look out for a number on a “bus” (trotro) whiles others are scrambling for available entry points. before you say jack, off goes the the bus. DEAL :secure your seat first, then ask later. good expressions though. papa brofo

  2. Kwadan says:

    Oh I remember that Labadi incident only too well. If it wasnt for the fact I was cramped up in a seat with Cynthia sitting on my lap, I was ready to burst out laughing.

  3. Unc. K. says:

    But why have you not learned Ga in all this time?

  4. Ama says:

    I agree with Unc. K. Having been born, bred and lived in Accra for 27 minus 3.5 years I wouldn’t be proudly proclaiming to all and sundry that I still don’t understand any Ga! Surely you must know a little?!

    Trying to get to Nyaboo from Konongo, I got an Agogo bus and paid my 180 old cedis. At Nyaboo, first village on the Agogo road, I told the mate to let me out. I’ll never forget the funny look he gave me as I got down, and his continuing backward glances as the bus sped off into the night.

    I got into my grandmother’s house and explained to her how I had got home – and the mystery was solved. Apparently there were Nyaboo taxis charging 50 old cedis which I should have taken instead. The mate probably thought I was crazy to throw my money away like that, and my grandmother only said “oh, mObO” i.e. I was to be pitied for my ignorance. Being an overprivileged Legon student at the time 180 cedis was so much small change but it was still galling to remember the way the mate looked at me!

  5. Raj says:

    I must say very funny as usual and on point too. Well I have witnessed someone joined a Western region bound STC instead of an Accra bound one. What happened was that there used to be a resting point in Anomabo in the central region where buses from Accra and Takoradi all stop to take the so call 15minutes break.

    The two buses looked the same and were parked side by side, all facing the same direction. The lady did not take any particular notice and went on board one of them. Incidentally both buses took off at the same time but pulled out in different directions.

    Luckily for this lady it was only a few meters apart that she released she was on the wrong bus. Her new bus stopped and they started shouting and signaling mine to pull over. We did and when she came back to join my bus you can imagine all sorts of stories and conversations that broke out of this incident.

  6. ely says:

    On my way to work one morning, I fell asleep and missed my stop. It was too early in the morning to be sleeping in the trotro so when I came to I couldnt voice out the “stop” screams in my head, I just had to wait till the next stop. Then just before the branch off towards the stop, a lady behind me angrily asked to be dropped right there cos the mate didnt inform the driver to drop her at her requested stop. When I got down to give her passage, I never looked back again, I just began walking back feeling very ashamed

  7. Guy Lou says:

    Masa, i still managed to join the wrong bus in the UK even though all the buses were numbered and lettered to show origin and destination. Before you say i am a schmuck just know that sh** happens.

  8. Helen says:

    Ku, this is not funny at all. it even gets worse when you do not have enough money to either get back to where the bus took off from or even to make it to your actual destination.

    i remeber my first attempt at getting to the old parliament house area in connection with national service posting. got off at the liberation circle and walked down. kept going to and fro the area between the conference centre and the gates of the parliament house because every one i asked could just not direct me to ‘job 600’.

    i still remember the aches and pains i had and how i was massaged because by the time i finally got home, my legs had literally expired.

    oh did i read ‘… urgency of a snail on tranquillizer….? cant bring myself to imagine how fast a pace you were describing….

    kudos, your sense of humour is so alive.

  9. richard says:

    nice one! last month when i was returning from Tema to Tetteh Quarshie i was privy to a scuffle between some passengers; a woman (carrying one of those large local aluminum trays for petty trading, you know?), her son, and another man. turns out the child struggled on first, then decided to hold a seat for his mother (unwritten Code in trotro – you never do this. Who will understand?) Anyway, this man also struggles on and decides that according to the Code, first come first served. The child disagrees vehemently. A slight scuffle. The man, noticing the other seats are filling fast, encourages the child to relent with a well placed knock. That’s when the child’s mother descended on him like a hawk. It was beautiful to behold: she didn’t even bother to board the car – she alternated between swatting the man with the tray and darting out of his reach, verbally abusing his ancestors. And to make matters worse, the kid also kept trying to push the poor man off his seat! The frustrated driver finally ordered the lot of them down. it was when we started moving in the wrong direction that i asked, “ah mate, you no dey go Tetteh Quarshie?” You can imagine rest. But at least i had a good laugh. Keep em coming man…

  10. Kwaku Dankwa says:

    I guess even if we number the buses, the masses will still rush in and ask where the bus is going. Even me, I struggle in and ask if it’s headed for Accra or Circle. After all, I can get down at 37 and continue to Accra.

    As for missing my junction and the rest, it’s happened so many times, I’ve lost count. Then you have to pay to get back on track, never mind asking people, some who can be unwilling to help a stranger, and some who are over-eager to help (which can be inconvenient in itself).

  11. LORDRAH says:

    So, Kwaku, did you go back to see the dentist at Korle-Bu before going to work or you went straight to work?

  12. elorm says:

    Number buses in Ghana? That is interesting. We will need a whole educational canpaign to get it across. We are more familiar with the strange names we give to our stops along the road.

    Getting lost in a trotro in Ghana, esp Accra is something the will never end. I recall one of my own experinces with a remorseful grin. The mate actually urged me on board but later claimed he did not hear proplerly when I asked if the bus was going to my intended destination. I was thorn between slapping him and asking him to keep the change and praying praying for God to forgive him ” for he knew not what he was doing” But thankfully, the other passengers gave him a verbal whipping he will not forget for a long time.

    Like the “snail on tranquilizer” thing. Kudos Bro.

  13. afia says:

    charley this one happened yesterday in the trosky. after the usual struggle at circle for trosky, we all settled in and started our journey with no incidence till we reached the TV Africa area and the mate started collecting the fare…..it was at this point that some guy asked aarrh mate enko north kaneshie? to which everyone burst out laughing… he paid the fare and got down. good work man! keep it up

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