Onipa nua ne nnipa (We’re all one)

I patted both pockets hysterically, probably expecting a miracle with each tap. While getting aboard my phone had ‘slipped’ out of my pocket, never to be seen again. Frantically, I pleaded with the man to my right to dial my number. Closing my eyes tightly, I willed the phone to ring somewhere around my feet. The mobile subscriber was switched off. My worst fears were realized. I could visualize my discarded chip lying in the mud, being trampled upon by all sorts. The elderly lady sitting to my left exclaimed in anger, “They’ve stolen your phone, eh? As for this station, that’s how they are oo…” Her gaze was fixed on some far off time and place as she went on, “I remember last year they stole my phone here …” I sighed, anticipating another wave of “sometime ago” narratives about to begin.

I was angry with myself for my careless loss, but now I had to endure almost everyone in the bus tell me about the crooks who gather at the station each evening. “You should be careful when you come here,” they warned. I was sick of all this unsolicited advice. Then, one by one, like rats scurrying out of a smoke-filled drainpipe, the stories started. Just the other day a thief had been caught stealing a phone, or someone was slapped and had his phone snatched from him as he tried to scatter the stars that had appeared in front of him. My plight had created an avenue for conversation, some amusement for a few bored individuals to guide them through traffic.

The stories always start with “Just the other day” or something similar. Perhaps in Accra we have a need to share our lives with others, from total strangers to friends we’ve traded sordid gossip with for years. No matter the situation, no matter where you are, there’s always someone who’s experienced something very similar and is willing to pour his side of the story for free. After all, at the end of the day, we’re all one.

Late one night, there happened to be a man walking along the side of the road who was suspected to have had a drink too many. It sparked off a recounting of predictable episodes. A man who looked like he had stepped off a plane from Hamburg in the eighties readily surrendered information about how hopelessly drunk he got one Christmas, and all he was reported to have done in his stupor. Another person had a neighbour who would go on a drinking spree by himself. He would stagger to the compound house, announcing his presence from a mile away, stinking of cheap alcohol and slurring old Presbyterian hymns.

On the way to work one bright morning, our driver was bargaining for a new duster. The hawker wouldn’t budge. The driver lost his cool and exclaimed that he wouldn’t buy from a cheat. We sped off, but that wasn’t the end. One woman, who I guessed was an expert bargainer, said she’d never allow herself to be swindled. She went on to narrate to us all how some woman at Mallam Atta market tried. I forget what exactly she was buying. This solicited a reply from another woman about how she knows the most discreet holes at Makola to get stuff on the cheap. What started as a driver buying a duster turned into a women’s club meeting as they swapped shopping secrets. One woman even held us up a little, squeezing the last bit of her story out as she slowly got down. I wish I had the guts to shout at her to hurry it up, as I was already late for work.

Let a lady walk by in a short skirt, some men will have diverse stories to tell about how someone walked into an office and rendered the rest of the working day unproductive. If a dare-devil cyclist crosses a car in traffic, it’s enough to start the morning discussion about how some nincompoop almost threw his life away in a similar bone-headed stunt on the Kanda Highway.

However, the one thing that gets people talking is a crushed car at the side of the road holding up traffic. Everyone seems to have witnessed at least one serious accident in their lives, because they all want to speak at once. The bloodier the details, the more relish with which they spill them.

Maybe we’re all guilty of looking for stories with which to enrich someone’s life, with laughter, advice, or just anything to give interested commuters a touch of morning entertainment. After all, just the other day on my way to work, I too saw something in a 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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18 Responses to Onipa nua ne nnipa (We’re all one)

  1. afia says:

    interesting…. it provides opportunity for everybody to share an experience or something ..sometimes you are lost in your thoughts and other times you just cant suppress a smile even in your predicament

  2. moshi says:

    gosh, not this one, gosh i thought of relaying my experience also about being pick pocketed. but i guess silence would be the best advice.

    tight expression you have in this piece. gosh am learning all over.
    keep it up man. respect to this piece.

    i think am back, after my vacation from the net. i guess this piece is my welcome back speech. tanks

  3. LORDRAH says:

    I always enjoy this kind of stories in the trotro but I never contribute. I don’t know if any of you have ever listened to such stuffs from a taxi driver himself, it is the most vividly described incident you could ever hear.

  4. Joseph says:

    great article…ur really good at this…keep it up…

  5. Ama says:

    That’s my boy!! Keep it up K.

  6. Aunty says:

    Nephew, did you really loose a cell phone or I didn’t understand your story?

  7. Adwoa says:

    hehehe.. the last time my phone got stolen, i avoided the stories by pretending there was nothing amiss. love this!

  8. elorm says:

    Sorry about your phone bro. Stuff happens in life, I guess. I once walked out of the Accra Mall to pick a car at the bus stop to Tema and I was trying to call someone on my phone so my eyes were focused on my phone as I walked to the stop. When my head came up I notice some people taking cautious glances at me. So I moved to another spot and soon as I got there a lady and a gentleman both turned their heads suspiciously in my direction. I think I understood what it meant and I laughed to myself. Are we all suspect phone-snatcher now? Hmmm.

  9. Sis says:

    Nice piece!

  10. RAY JAY says:

    Its amusing to find people from different backgrounds act like family when these stories are being shared…great article bro.

  11. Kwaku Dankwa says:

    Well, I guess it’s not too uncomfortable talking to a stranger on a trotro. I do remember one time when I was talking to a friend of mine and one lady turned round to say, “I didn’t mean to listen to what you were saying, but …” She went on to contribute and debate with my companion. Ebei! She went on to collect my friend’s number and all. Trotro meetings.

  12. Jeous Adu Ariva Mendes says:

    Chala ibi so. Sometimes, dey gang up on issues dat re not worth it. Making undue noise about an experience we dont care about

  13. Guy Lou says:

    And before you realise, the narrator would have picked your wallet.
    Be careful son

  14. Emefa says:

    Mmmmm 🙂
    Nice entertainment for my day…

  15. Nana A says:

    I enjoyed your blog
    Of course I recently lost my phone while taking public transport… but i’ll spare u the details

    Thanks for ur insight…I’m 🙂 now

  16. virginia dankwa says:

    Enjoyed reading your plethora of stories all the way in Chiang Mai Thailand. Amazing how narrating about a potential loss of phone led to so many things!!! Very interesting and absorbing! Thanks for hilarious way to while away some spare time. keep them coming. Obenten.

    • Ama says:

      What I find interesting is how far some people have to go to get any spare time to while away – hope you’re enoying this new experience! ; )

  17. Dannie says:

    I love this one…got me cracking up from the word go (well except for the part where you lost your cell phone 😉

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