Makin’ a quick buck

The multitude at Bridge waiting for a ride to work – or wherever it is they were going – was impossible, and rightly so. I didn’t expect to be the only one waiting for an Accra-bound trotro after oversleeping by a whole hour. Still, it was worse than expected. No need to waste any time proving anything to myself. I went straight to Emmanuel Eye Centre, using the back road next to Mensvic Hotel and getting down just in front of the pillars blocking entrance to the main road. With any success, I’d get a trotro soon, while the mob I’d left behind clawed at each others’ flesh.

My eyes darted through the traffic, trying to catch a mate’s attention. If successful, he would then signal his destination, and I would coolly walk between the cars and hop aboard. Easy. Except this time, my pot of luck had leaked dry. You see, sometimes, there are a great many public school children on the same mission. The pesky kids look up from playing in the sand to scramble for the last available seat advertised by a mate in the middle lane. No way am I scuffling with that bunch. I still have some dignity.

So I hung around, looking as calm as possible. I was glad nobody saw the sweat trickling down my leg as I fretted, having waited for twenty minutes with no rescue in sight.

From nowhere a man walked past, away from me and my female competitor. “Accra, one Ghana,” he offered. Surely, this taxi driver knew that it cost GH¢2 to Accra. I wasn’t complaining. It was my turn to pull the fast one on the system. Up the road he went, probably to find some bofrot to eat, and was back in three minutes. He beckoned us over. We just shrugged and followed.

But where was the taxi? I saw nothing. It wasn’t 1st April either. Before I could flick my hand at him in contempt he gestured towards the idling Toyota Fortuner. No kidding. He sat down while I got my senses back. No wonder it cost a measly Cedi! Some driver who had been sent by his master and was making the most of an opportunity, maybe? The lady slowly squirmed into the back, fresh rubber on the seats squeaking underneath her. I was speechless. Seconds later, cold air was gusting in my face. I could fall asleep. The goofy grin on my face must’ve betrayed my true inner feeling. Respite!

There was no way this man was going to leave his cash cow unmilked. At Shiashie, he loaded them four at the back. I was almost scared he’d ask one passenger to join me up front. We were weaving through traffic like the car wasn’t his. After all, it wasn’t. Later, I would spy his name tag and the government agency he worked for, which will remain unnamed. But for the lady getting off at Flagstaff House, I’m sure we’d have dodged any offending traffic and reach Accra in record time.

As ill fate would have it, we all only had larger denominations. Fortunately for him – and us – there were a few battered red notes in his bag to change the tens that came. The lot of us shared a good chuckle, the laughter of looters. We few, making illegal use of state resources, while enriching the pockets of a single individual. Corruption?

Perhaps, when the past government proclaimed the private sector the engine of growth, some took “engine” a bit too literally. And now that the seed is sown, it continues to this day.

Just the other morning, I reached Bridge early to meet the last of four trotros in a row gunning away. The crowd was thin and at that time, if anyone had told me that I would soon be engaged in battle after losing battle for a seat, I’d never have believed them. One guy standing in front of an unloaded and empty pure water truck was shouting, “Circle, one Cedi, ready, go!” He wasn’t making much headway.

We each exchanged glances and talked about how some driver wanted to reap some easy money, but stayed put. Then a gentleman climbed in. That was the motivation everyone needed. It was full before I could get there. The opportunity God had placed in my lap was wasted. With egg on my face, I braced myself for what would be the fight of my life.

If good money is there for the picking, one better find some strong gloves. A few people make a healthy profit every evening on the Tema Motorway. In any case, the masses need to be transported. It’s nobody’s fault that there aren’t enough trotros or taxis in the city to carry them.

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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16 Responses to Makin’ a quick buck

  1. once had a ride from labone to teshie nungua in a tipper truck(it was after eight pm). Desperate measures for desperate sitty-ations.
    Corruption comes in all shapes and sizes.

  2. Kwaku Dankwa says:

    Tipper truck?! You got that right for desperate! Please tell me you were in the cabin and not the bucket…

  3. sefakor says:

    My experience was with one of those “fresh” urvan’s. You know, the ones that have been made popular for inter city travel by stanbic? But this one belonged to one of the state agencies. I had the previlege of being a mate on one of those.

  4. cabin. Buckew anka, ebe ye je.

  5. Tetekai says:

    Oh chale, when i get to the bus stop and there are no vehicles to Tema Station in sight, i pray for Post Office vehicle; when i do get one, i pay 20p to Korle-bu bus stop where Tema Station vehicles come easy. But sometimes you have to take dropping. 😦

  6. Guy Lou says:

    The driver is amazing. He is a real entrepreneur. And you KD kraaaa, after all these years you still dey flex trotro? Tweeeeaaa Just jump on and jump off. Thats the rule.

  7. Hammers-for-life says:

    I once had the same kind of “privilege”, only the ride was longer – Accra to Kumasi, in a brand new Mercedes ML. It was almost too good to be true!! 😉

  8. Abby says:

    Wow wow, this is amazing…..toyota fortuner? The guy is wild, i’m really feeling him. Can imagine how relieved u also felt. The purewater truck….not bad at all. Was it the bucket the gentleman sat in or the front. I’ve never encountered such happenings. Really funny. Good Kuks, u r really revealing certain things I never imagined happened in the transport biz. True ‘engine’ of growth, lol.

    • Kwaku Dankwa says:

      Nah, they sat in the cabin. It managed to take about 4 or 5 people mpo. Hmmm… As for the bucket, no way would I even do that. No matter how desperate. I did when I was in the village, but that was a pickup full of schoolkids, anyway.

  9. Hammers-for-life says:

    Too long ago to remember exactly how much, but it’s definitely a little less dearer

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