One gallon

Late one cold Tuesday, instead of taking us straight home, the trotro driver swerved right at the Kwame Nkrumah Circle, past the Ghana Commercial Bank building. Was he beating traffic? I’d never seen anyone do it like this before. With a sharp turn of the steering wheel, he zoomed into the Goil filling station opposite Vienna City. The speed roughly tossed a few of us about, but I guess everyone was too tired to seriously complain. I certainly couldn’t be bothered. We hadn’t even reached Busy Internet and I was already half-asleep. Just the way I like it. Thoughts of my bed flooded my mind. I’d missed most of the Champions League game on telly, anyway.

The skinny mate in the trotro finishing up right ahead of us was vigorously shaking his trotro with all his might. Filling the tank before calling it a night, presumably? But does this shaking really make a difference? Too tired to think, I drifted off to sleep, until sudden commotion woke me up.

The driver of another trotro was having a go at the pump attendant. Of all things, the driver accused the attendant of cheating. At least, that’s what I gathered. My mind was clearing up too slowly for my liking. A good quarrel was brewing. The driver got down, waving his fingers in the air, pointing first at the attendant, and then at the pump. His argument? The man finished too quickly, to which he responded “Ah, so do you want to be here for eight hours?” Tempers were boiling.

Our driver voluntarily became the peace-broker. He sufficiently calmed both factions down to listen to each side of the story. Then he asked the question I thought was obvious: “How much did you buy?” With anger burning in his eyes, the aggrieved driver spat out, “Five Cedis.” My eyes flew open in amazement. The faces of the jury around me confirmed I wasn’t dreaming. The accused flashed a grin as he saw us all react in jaw-dropping shock. How much?

In a filling station, fighting over such a paltry sum is nothing short of a joke. Why, that’s less than a gallon of diesel! The judge had his verdict. The whole trotro laughed the case out of court. Revelling in his victory, the victor went on to throw biting sarcasm at the vanquished. My sleep was ruined. The absurdity of the whole disagreement tickled me. How long did he expect to stay at the pump for five Cedis? Surely, even today’s taxi drivers have stopped buying one gallon of petrol!

Not quite. There was an occasion where I had to go to the National Theatre area and rush back before work closed. In desperation, I picked the first taxi I could find. It wasn’t in the shape of its life. Like rings through the tree trunks, each layer of rusted metal could give a clue of the car’s advanced years. Its driver was just as scruffy. Yet, I had no time to waste. Off we went, zipping by the tortoises in our way. Bliss.

Suddenly, there was a cough and a sputter. I could tell the engine had slipped into a coma. Disaster was gleefully staring me to the face. What on earth could’ve gone wrong? I sank in my seat. The embarrassment of crawling out of this relic of a taxi would’ve been great, should anyone I knew wave at me from their Toyota Corolla. I knew what was next. I’d be asked to push the car out of the way. How humiliating.

Without even a wince, the driver flatly told me that his petrol was finished. What! Just like that? Beads of sweat popped up on my forehead like termites out of the ground on a rainy night. My driver pulled a hanging wire somewhere around his door. The boot popped open. Without a hint of urgency, he grabbed a full gallon of petrol and proceeded to pour it into his thirsty car through a dirty Voltic bottle with the bottom cut off, which served as his funnel. All the while he was explaining to me why it was better for him to operate this way, rather than keep the tank at least half-filled. He might as well have spoken Hindi. Ignoring the honking cars that had to squeeze past him, he lazily walked back into his seat, and in the tangled mess underneath the steering wheel he connected the right wires, stepped on the accelerator a few times and we were gunning towards Adabraka like nothing had happened.

One gallon or not, I was just glad to be on my way, for it brought bitter memories of one other cold night, where I shamefully begged complete strangers for money … just for one gallon of petrol.


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 twin boys Mark and Andrew, 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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19 Responses to One gallon

  1. Franklin Eleblu says:

    Hahahahaha. O charlie!! Deja Vu. Thanks for easing my stress this evening!

  2. one gallon can do wonders yai. It is the fuel guages that dont work that bother me.

  3. Raj says:

    A very good one again. I really loved the ending and yes if i could borrow Franklin’s comment….”Deja Vu”. Now dnt we all have those embrassing moments? Have a good day and my regards to the peeps.

  4. esenam says:

    LOL…….Trotro drivers think GH¢5.00 fills their tank….They get down from their vehicles just to watch keenly when they are being served at the filling stations.

    • Kwaku Dankwa says:

      The eagle eyes of a trotro driver, eh? You dare not cheat him out of his 5 Ghana diesel.

    • Yohan Odonkor says:

      rotf-lol! the way they jealous that precious GH¢5.00 chaley… it’s amazing!! Like you said – watching with eagle eyes… if they notice/sense something amiss, you’re in for a family tree re-description in new tongues!!

  5. k says:

    ……………”should anyone I knew wave at me from their Toyota Corolla”……… jus got me ROTFLMFAO …………….lol…dats jus classic!!

  6. Guy Lou says:

    Ever heard of a trotro driver complaining that his engine dey suck petrol too much.
    “service the carburator.” Another charges. Age of the car? 16yrs. But he has done overhauling twice so the engine should have run better.

    i love the trotro stations

    • Yohan Odonkor says:

      lol! yeah, i love ’em too… they bring great [and annoying] memories. I think i may have heard the “my engine dey suck petrol too much” line before… 🙂

  7. Yohan Odonkor says:

    Aha! …the one gallon menace.! Always a time wasting bother!!! Quarreling, fighting, insulting in all manner of tongues, and finally… a trip on foot to your destination if not lucky. Nice piece… i like the first part with the 5 cedis thing… PRICELESS!!!

    As to why some drivers do the one gallon thing is something of a mystery to me, and how they don’t really learn from their mistakes is something else. But, then again… we get to heve entertaining events as such above. A boring trip home [or to work], can become one of a storyteller – pushing a taxi [or worse… trotro] for 7 miles or more for a single gallon of petrol ’cause the previous gallon got finished halfway through the trip… Ghana’s quite a place of stories and story tellers.

    • Kwaku Dankwa says:

      Well, where would we be without our stories? Sometimes, that’s the only thing that dulls pain. We even tell stories to the point of embellishment. Listened to Okay FM’s newspaper review? Brightens every morning.

      • Yohan Odonkor says:

        Yep!! …what would Old Girl Ghana be without her stories?!!! I listen to the radio evry now and then, but not very frequent.

  8. i like the pushing part. Then the fine boys in their kicks and ottopfisters refuse to push some. Konongo kaya they wont push, they wont get off for the mate to push either.
    Notice how theres always a woman with a baby in these instances too.

    • Yohan Odonkor says:

      lol! yeah… exactly!!! there’s always that one woman…
      And to be honest, i wouldn’t get down to push even if my life depended on it. I wouldn’t want some fresh gal in a toyota corolla passing by staring at a fine boy like me in action, lol!

      And as for the stubborn kaya, hm! No comments…

  9. Kwaku Dankwa says:

    Pushing. Hm! Actually, I wrote a piece on that one!

    As for the Toyota Corolla people coming to pass and see me pushing … can’t happen, people. I’ll just walk away. Take my money. I’m walking on.

  10. Yohan Odonkor says:

    “I’ll just walk away. Take my money. I’m walking on.” Perfectly put…

    I’ve already read that piece, and i loved it!!! Charley… e hard ooo.!

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