It’s been often said that traffic brings out the worst in people. This one time it did: the confessions of an alcoholic.
Traffic was bumper to bumper as usual. I felt particularly sorry for the BMW that had ruined a sleek paint job rubbing sides with a pure water distribution truck that, if human, would’ve been proud to be anywhere near this fusion of artistic and engineering brilliance. I’ve seen the morning free-for-all start with much less, so this was more than sufficient to get Accra’s commuters talking. In this court of public opinion, private car drivers were the cause of all road ills in the capital. I was shocked. It was like a self-confessed gangster walking free. One man, speaking his mind, stole the conversation, blaming accidents in Africa largely on drinking.
He would reveal his name to be Ibrahim. He seemed to be very intelligent, though a little rough around the edges. He started by speaking French with the driver – an Ivorian, I think – but he switched rather easily to English, and lost me again when he addressed another stranger in Ewe. By his own admission, he was a champion drinker in Ashaley Botwe only two years ago. This was until one night of heavy drinking on an empty stomach that landed him in the hospital, left for dead. Even he hasn’t figured out how he survived. He hasn’t had a drop since, and is now a heavy anti-drinking campaigner. “Alcohol no good,” he would say after every wave of attack against the evils of drink. He claims to have had his fair share of Johnnie Walker, Hennessey and other fine spirits of similar repute, not exactly the drinks I’d associate with the common trotro commuter.
The gentleman supporting Ibrahim’s condemnation of alcohol was your typical passenger. He too had not touched a drink in a while. Maybe half an hour. He reeked of alcohol, and looked like he couldn’t wait to be reunited with his beloved alcohol, never mind that it was only eight in the morning. His face bore the scars of a lifetime of drinking, the type whose age cannot be determined because, as we say in Twi, nsa atwa no foto, (alcohol has taken a picture of him). “Alcohol no good,” he too would say after every story he would narrate of his past sufferings at the hands of alcohol, each a little more embarrassing than the last. It looked like the most expensive drink he had had was Campari, for he extolled its virtue like it was vintage French wine. He sounded like he was more accustomed to local brews.
Maybe alcohol, and not traffic, brings out the worst in people. One night in an Osu-bound trotro, an elderly man who had had a cheap drink too many was insisting at the top of his voice that everyone spoke Ga. Everything anyone said, he would translate. His heavy tongue and almost shut eyes were the classic picture of one who enjoys the pleasures of fermented grain or distilled sap. By the time I was mercifully leaving the scene he had reached the singing stage. I shudder to imagine his attempts at getting home.
In another instance, the driver of a trotro I was in poured such abuse on a drunken old man that even I felt bad. His comical attempts at crossing the road – thankfully, one that never got too busy – ended with him staggering and submitting to the force of gravity right there in the dirt. He had to be assisted and dumped at the side of the road, no consideration being made for his advancement in years. His present state of disgrace wouldn’t allow it. We drove off leaving him to deal with his personal demons.
Tell me, in your experiences, have you had any encounters with any drunken passengers? What did they talk about, or what did they do to betray their condition? Share with us.
I got off at Ridge, wondering how Ibrahim managed to boast of the quantities and quality of the alcohol he had consumed before rediscovering religion, and still not long for his days as the bar hopping champion drinker of Ashaley Botwe. Since that time, he said, he has been married and got a business together. His new friend, who glorified the Pushers of this world, still had a way to go before putting alcoholism behind him. Let’s hope he doesn’t get any brushes with death, for in his state, he may be too drunk to live to tell his story. How lovely, the people we meet on any given trip to work.