I have a bad (?) habit of falling asleep on my way home. After all, Bridge is just a few hundred metres from my last stop. Many a time, I’ve been shaken awake, a scowl on the dream killer’s face, with a sharp, “Last stop.” Normally, it’s straight to the kelewele seller, who starts wrapping my usual order – once with someone’s CV – before I get there. After our quick pleasantries I start the hike home, munching on greasy fried plantain.
On one journey, however, we hit a pothole so hard that only the dead would remain unconscious. The driver ignored our abuse. The mate, who certainly couldn’t have been a day into his teens, shouted in his not-quite-broken voice, “Kerf!” Pardon? That was a new one. I’ve heard “Awutse” and a few other strange shouts, but what does “Kerf” mean? He yelled again, the strain on his face showing he’d expended more energy. It didn’t sound like a single decibel had been added. Someone nodded. He turned to the driver, “Away to Kerf.” A bus-stop? Of course! CURVE! How unorthodox. I smiled and returned to Dreamland in haste.
Any newcomer to the niche world of public transport in Accra could easily identify how “Eye Clinic” or “Shangri-La” got their names, but what about “Sankara Down” and “Popolampo”?
Back in the day I took the Circle route to work. A few passengers would get off at “Equip”. Now, nothing in Ghana has a name for no reason. Turns out that what is Busy Internet today used to be a company that sold technical equipment, called – no prizes for guessing – Equip. So, ask no questions, the stop’s called Equip. End of story. Never mind that most mates were running around their villages in pioto the last time Equip Ltd made a sale.
One time around Jubilee House, I turned away from the lady seated by me because her loud and constant gum-chewing was getting on my very last nerve. The side of a trotro next to us in traffic with the inscription, “Haatso-Rabbit” caught my eye. I didn’t bother finding out the origins of this one. I remember thinking that the residents of the area should’ve chosen a more inspirational creature to name their neighbourhood after. It dawned on me, however, that there was probably something relating to rabbits that was representative of the area. Old residents of Dansoman would affirm that the name “Akukofoto” came about because – you guessed it – there was a large billboard with a chicken on it advertising nothing more than a poultry farm. (While we’re at it, for the love of God, could someone please tell me why on earth one bus-stop in East Legon is called Banku Junction?!)
“Sweezair!” Our mate bellowed again the name of another bus-stop which bears no relevance to the present day. Swissair has long been defunct, but don’t expect the area to be renamed. It’s just like any bus-stop named “Mobil”. Of course, the public transport service operators don’t care that Total bought Mobil with all their filling stations in Ghana. It was Mobil at the turn of the century, Mobil it is, Mobil it will remain, world without end.
On one trip home, this Chinese girl said she would get off at Airport Second. No problem. The mate went on collecting his money. As soon as we sped past the Airport traffic lights, the lady started frantically shouting in shrill broken English, making a big nuisance of herself, and an already uncomfortable ride even more unbearable. The poor confused
driver wanted to know what the commotion was about. She replied that we had passed her stop. Not a chance. We weren’t even there yet. We parked. She stomped away, leaving a few choice words for the mate to ponder over.
Any experienced commuter would know that she had got the naming wrong. You see, where two stops are close together – “Airport”, for example – then one is “First”, and the other is “Second”. At the other side of the road, what was “First” becomes “Second”, and “Second” becomes “First”.
Confusing? Most newcomers, after missing their stop a few times, learn the system quickly. It’s even more baffling at places like Opeibea, where on the route TO Accra there’s only one “Opeibea”, but on the route FROM Accra, there’s “Opeibea First” and “Opeibea Second”. Worse still, at Bawaleshie, one bus-stop is called “School”. Directly across the road, it’s “Bawaleshie First”. Please pass the paracetamol.
This is my route. I’m sure there are more interesting bus-stops that I’ve not heard of before that you can share, origins and all.
There’s always a reason for a name, no matter how strange, funny or seemingly irrelevant. After all, one major crossroad in Kumasi is still called Amakom Roundabout.