The worst of the traffic was almost behind us. Despite merely moving only a few feet the last time the traffic lights had gone green, we were now near the front of the line. Emmanuel Eye Clinic is fast proving to be a sticky spot in the mornings. Only a natural disaster – or the police – could keep us from going through at the next change of the lights. All around us, engines were revving and raring to go. Even the mate’s mood seemed a bit more upbeat, though his talking to the pure water seller as we waited in the gridlock could have played a huge part in that.
He turned inwards and said, “Shiashie”. No response. “Shiashie!” A little louder this time. Nothing. He leaned forward on the open window of the Urvan’s gate as he said to the driver, “Away to Spanner Junction.” The lights changed from red to green, signaling the jostling to begin as five lanes would become three. Within seconds we were edged into the innermost lane by a tipper truck bullying its way through, but at least, we were in. It was as we zoomed towards the bus stop that we heard from the back, the voice of a young man, “Shiashie, bus stop!”
The driver took his eyes off the road and glared with fire in his eyes at the young man. Naturally, this passenger felt he had done nothing wrong and was demanding at the top of his voice to be put down at Shiashie, the next bus stop. He lost the argument and was only set free further away from where he had intended to drop off. I hope he learned his lesson: stay attentive and say quickly where you wish to get off.
So many times I have been baffled by someone shouting his bus stop just in front of it, when the car is in the middle lane, forcing the driver into an act of road indiscipline, though this is characteristic of trotro drivers. Many commuters are guilty of this crime of not giving enough time to react. Or perhaps, there remains a bigger problem in society of people waiting for the very last minute to do things.
My mind goes back to one incident at Tema Station. A lady with shopping bags full of tomatoes and other foodstuffs had been sitting in the car, fanning herself and complaining bitterly about how much time was being wasted sitting down in the baking heat as the mate yelled for more passengers to hop aboard. Finally, our saviour came. Being a typical trotro, it needed a push from a group of mates before coughing out a cloud of black smoke. We were taxiing out of the station when out of the blue this woman, actually among the first to get in, shouted for a yoghurt seller to come running after her with his cardboard box on his head. I couldn’t for the life of me imagine why she had waited all this while to buy. Worse still, she had only larger Cedi denominations, which meant the seller had to rummage through his pockets for change while the rest of us could do no more than fume in rage. Thank God the engine stayed alive.
It appears the hawkers always have it worst. Many a time, I have seen pure water sellers sprinting behind moving vehicles at traffic lights, all the while trying to balance their bowl on their heads and at the same time counting coins to give as change. Why do these buyers, knowing very well how thirsty they were, never bother to buy water until the lights had turned green? No wonder a few times, in such situations, some crafty hawkers pretending to look for change have scooted off with the change, no matter how much or how little.
Perhaps in your own commute, you have been left completely amazed at how some have so horribly mistimed their actions. Have you seen anyone fumble through their bags for an elusive coin to buy plantain chips just when the lights have changed? Or do we as a people just have an insatiable need to procrastinate, all in the name of living the unhurried life?
One day, I got to Ridge, earphones firmly plugged into my head, only to see a woman chasing the trotro she had been on. She was insisting that the mate had cheated her out of a few pesewas. I shook my head, wondering why she didn’t do all this in the bus and waited till the very last minute. That was when I put my hand in my pocket and remembered that I had forgotten to collect my change when I switched cars at 37.