It was all so sudden. The tiny lady next to me had unleashed a barrage of insults on the woman behind us. Raw hatred poured out of her as she swore hell the next time they met at Shiashie. She switched to Ewe. The way she stressed and stretched her words didn’t sound too friendly. I was taken aback.
The journey hadn’t started pleasantly. This Benz 207 wasn’t in the best shape. For one, the shock absorbers, if any, had long ceased to be of any use. Worst of all, there was so little space at the sides and between the rows that the back seat could take no more than three grumbling passengers. They endured the situation, with limbs twisted at all angles, mumbling displeasure under their collective breath.
At Spanner Junction the man in the corner had to get out. The other two passengers slowly bundled themselves out, one by one. The mob at the gate had no patience for this ritual, crushing those getting out. The mate was helplessly staring through the back window from outside.
Two women got in. Neither was petite. The mate begged them to allow this small lady to go in first. His pleas went unheeded. My one fear was that the black and white cloth they wore would rip in their strenuous efforts to squeeze in. The mate was fuming by now. He insisted that four people squash themselves into the non-existent space at the back, since the funeral-bound women wouldn’t listen to his organizational advice.
Once four of them had crowded in, one of the women put down the folding seat, scratching the smallish lady in the process. She dutifully apologized. I thought that was the end of it. I was wrong. The immediate insults came like a ruthless missile attack.
She was huffing and puffing, well on her way to high blood pressure. Her breathing was heavier than normal. I had the singular misfortune of being right next to this lady. The first woman shot back. She didn’t appreciate her friend being insulted over something that she hadn’t done. This was the petrol on the flames. Our lady began shouting at the top of her voice about how she had been duped or cheated on by this other woman. I couldn’t really tell. The funeral duo took the fight to the accuser. Morality and sanity were called into question. Scandalous stories were spilled to the shocked audience. Thank God I didn’t eventually have to remove my glasses and separate a brutal catfight.
This other time I was in a trotro to Circle from Korle-Bu late one night. Two rough-looking blokes climbed in, going to Zongo Junction. They talked way too loudly for my liking at that hour, considering that I was fuming over having missed a free ride home. These guys insisted on paying only half the fare. The mate would have none of it, since they had got aboard at the station.
The situation quickly deteriorated as brawn replaced brains. Being a Benz 507, there was room enough to stand. At Zongo Junction, as the mate demanded the rest of his fare, the shadowy figure of one of the trouble-makers rushed at the mate head first. I had sized him up. He was wearing Real Madrid’s Bernabeu centenary jersey, which I knew had only been in stores in Europe for two weeks. And he couldn’t pay 20 pesewas extra? In the dimly-lit trotro, the mate had had little reaction time. He was down on his bum, eyes ablaze with violence. Some women in the half-filled trotro shouted for Jesus. Some called for mere mortals, “mmarimma mmra oo!” The two tried to barge their way past the mate, who was no weakling himself. By the time the two had escaped across the road, the mate had had the rusty gate slammed against him and received a lump on his head as a souvenir. He would later reveal that he knew these two and had a longstanding grudge with them.
Perhaps there are times only a fight can settle matters. How else would you explain the time a man held a mate by the collar and almost headbutted him when the poor fellow wasn’t producing change? Or when a threatened to man cut short his journey to even scores with a stranger he had been having an argument with in the car? He had to be coaxed back in. The official line was that it wasn’t worth it. However, it was obvious that there was no way he would survive one blow.
But then again, who doesn’t love a good fight? Just take your place and watch two people slug it out, and then walk away from the evening’s entertainment with a shake of the head.