The thrill of the last minute

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.

Asomasi.

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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 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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9 Responses to The thrill of the last minute

  1. Ben Anyan says:

    same here bruv! i wonder the very same thing; why kwraaaa’ll u wait till ur ride is about to go on full blast to decide to get some water???!! beats me

  2. slimpo says:

    It so annoying when people wait till the last minute to say they would alight at a particular stop. Even more annoying when the mate shouts out the stop about two or three times. I must confess that in such situations, deep down in my heart i always pray the driver moves on to the next stop to teach the person a lesson.

  3. Emefa says:

    This is good. I really enjoyed this one 🙂

  4. Lady Jaye says:

    Once I was in a trotro where a mate repeatedly kept saying bustop, bustop bustop. No one responded. He told the driver “away!” so the driver got into the middle lane. CLoser to the bustop a passenger said, “mate, I will alight at the bustop” – the mate flipped and started to yell at the passenger. The passenger yelled back and said ” saying ‘bustop’ means bustop: someone is going to alight, it’s a signal for the driver. If you want to know if someone wants to get down, you ask, will any one get down at so-so bustop?” Unfortunately for the mate, everyone agreed with the passenger, and they all started to berate him. In fact a good number of them asked him if he didn’t know how to be a mate. At some point in time, even the driver joined in to insult the mate. they insulted him on everything from his attitude, to his attire and the way he was doing his job – everyone in the trosky yelling at this poor guy. it was funny, but it served him right for yelling at the customer.

    • Kwaku Dankwa says:

      Oh my! Poor mate. How he was rather bashed over the head is something else, eh? And then everyone picks on him and takes the opportunity to diss everything else about him. These folks are under some stress too oo…

  5. RAY JAY says:

    it’s amazin how dat happens….it goes to show how interestin we are as people, hmm…nice piece bro…

  6. Dannie says:

    Hahaha I like the way you capture my daily frustrations. There are times I wish I could scream at those who just wait till the very last minute to yell at the mate their bus stop. It’s like…really? All this while you didn’t hear the mate holler or see the familiar scenery around you if your excuse is that you had earphones on? But then being the lady I am, I’m not able to vent my frustration by hitting them over the head with my purse or using a few ‘French’ words.

  7. phonsy says:

    Kwaku,

    couldnt have been a more apt write-up. vivid and clear. really you know what you talking about. felt like i was on the trotro ride myself. i have always wondered what passengers do to while away time or kill de boredom when in a trotro. whether at the ‘loading’ point or during the painfully slow journey (including having to stop at every single terminal) — some of the things i have had to do was (nobly) say a prayer for everyone on the bus (pious me) look out for typos on billboards and signages all around; switch my phone radio on; count backwards from 2010; chale guys… please share yours

  8. Jeous Adu Ariva Mendes says:

    Yo, ure good… It happens all the time. Especially, before traffic lights

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