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.
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.