So here I was, hardly rested from the weekend’s exertions and caught in the belly of the traffic jam that snaked its way from Opeibea House to Ridge one nasty Monday morning. It was hot and humid, thanks to the previous night’s rains. Though it was only a few minutes past eight, I felt unbearably sticky. The smoke being coughed out of the Benz 207 next to us – seeping in through the two tiny holes in my firmly shut window – completed my torture. The traffic monster merely slithered along.
Then, just what I needed: a red light at Flagstaff House.
The lights had turned green for no more than a second before the orchestra behind us let loose a symphony of honking. As there was only about enough space for three cars to go, anyway, this was hardly the reaction I expected.
From my cramped position in the backseat, I turned to see the owner of the Hyundai ix35 directly behind us, his hand glued to his horn. It was only the first day of the official working week, yet he had the haggard look of a man who works from Sunday to Sunday. The horns only grew louder when our engine stalled. The irritated driver behind us was by now waving his arms in fury. I worried about his health. It was like everyone behind us up to the 37 Military Hospital was releasing their frustration on us.
Like werewolves in a full moon, it’s almost as if green lights turn drivers into ravaging maniacs. They’re all in a rush to go somewhere. Or nowhere. They seem to have little patience for waiting for even the slightest moment. Perhaps, you can’t blame them. Maybe everyone feels everyone needs a bit of a jolt in traffic. After all, I’ve heard of drivers falling asleep behind the wheel in front of red lights. Or maybe it’s as a result of the culture from school, where we were ruled by bells.
I don’t know who the worse offenders between trotro and taxi drivers are. Taxi drivers tend to be quite annoying sometimes. I remember taking a walk last week at 4:30am because I couldn’t sleep anymore, much to my annoyance. Of course, I was the only person walking along the street at such an ungodly hour. Cars would zoom by way above the speed limit every minute or two.
Far behind me, I heard short honks at short intervals. “Pesky taxis,” I muttered in displeasure to myself without looking. It got closer, still punctuating my thoughts. Obviously, the honking was directed at me, and in the stillness of dawn, I had already heard it a long way out. I would think that if I was looking for a taxi at that time of day, I’d be standing, not walking, and I’d have motioned him before he even got close. I was glad to see the back of him.
But then, it’s just what taxi drivers do. Their honking in short spurts only grates my ears. One day, uncharacteristic of me, I took a dropping from North Kaneshie to Korle-Bu. I couldn’t help it. I was just too late to go trotro searching and agonizingly watch us grind to a halt at every bus stop. Now, this taxi driver, with me sitting in the backseat, was still tapping his horn every three seconds. Rather than find it irksome, I found it quite amusing. It could be that the poor man had had so little business all day, it had become habit.
Trotro drivers, on the other hand, are just generally in a hurry to beat the next trotro a few metres ahead of them. Shoving their way around Accra, they have a hand out for the horn, some of which are an improvised button placed beside the steering wheel. Others horns are activated by windscreen wipers.
One evening, I was caught in rush hour at Obetsebi-Lamptey Circle. Reasoning was a scarce commodity, and only the brave made it through. All of a sudden, I heard three loud bangs. My heart stopped. It took me a few seconds to discover that it was our driver hitting the side of his own Benz 507. If it was meant to alarm everyone and send them into paralysis, I think it worked. Make it through the madness, by any means necessary.
With horns, it’s a one-size-fits-all. Calling someone, porrr! Frightening someone, porrr! Giving someone space in your lane, porrr! Forcing someone out of your lane, porrr! Yet, with each honk, depending on length, the message is clear, from different pitched horns to those that play a tune. Most visitors to Ghana are surprised that we play to the horn. For me, it’s a gentle reminder, wanted or unwanted, that I’m home.