I noticed him from a distance: a bull of a man in neat short sleeves and starched khakis. He had a thick head and a square jaw, a barrel for a chest and tree trunks for arms. His impatience was getting on my nerves. Charging like a bruising rugby player into the crowded scrum, he rushed from one approaching trotro to the next. His technique was all wrong.
To avoid the scuffle, I stayed at the other side, hoping to catch an empty trotro before it turned around to load the masses across the street going to Accra or Circle.
A Nissan Urvan stopped right in front of me with three passengers in it. I didn’t bother trying to get in. This was until the mate flagged down another trotro headed for Adjiringanor and asked the trio to board that one. What a stroke of luck! Without knowing whether it was going to Accra or Circle, I scrambled into the front seat. Usually, you ask questions later. It wasn’t a moment too soon. Determined commuters dashed across the road, with no regard for life or limb, and squeezed in. The stocky fellow drilled himself between two strugglers. Two hapless public school kids bounced off his body like houseflies against a windscreen. After the dust settled, the mate’s seat was his. I half-expected him to get kicked out. Sadly, he wasn’t. So we set off, nobody bothered about our being overloaded.
The signs were there early on that this was an ill-fated journey. Branching left before Mensvic Hotel, the driver took the popular Chez Afrique backstreet. In a decision that shocked us all, he took another backstreet by L’Ecole Française instead of rejoining the main East Legon road, which seemed less dense than we had expected. No amount of protest would deter him from his chosen course of action.
We drove past unconcerned men squatting over a huge gutter, and scraped through the unnecessary traffic jam spilling into the main Shiashie village road. I was fuming. It started drizzling. Luckily for us all, nobody was getting off before 37. I would minutes later spot my boss in the traffic, but decided against dashing into his SUV through the now steady showers like a lunatic.
By the time we reached the choked Tetteh Quarshie Interchange the rain had stopped, and rays of sunlight were peeping through the heavy clouds. There, in an urgent voice, the mate asked the driver to hurry through the traffic lights before …
Too late. We were ushered towards the shoulder of the road.
Now, on the highway, the only thing worse than a breakdown is being stopped by the police.
In a calm voice and measured tones, the traffic warden made his charge. The driver’s trembling voice affirmed that he knew of his crimes.
“Can I see your license?”
“Oh, officer,” the driver stuttered, a doomed look on his face.
The Fates had just yanked the carpet from beneath the driver’s feet. He was done for. He started begging in the name of God. Desperate to get to work, I stretched my neck out, and with my most pitiful look, begged for mercy. “Officer, please, it’s raining. Consider …”
He cut me off, telling me that the driver knew very well that he had fallen foul of the law. The anguished driver turned to his mate, bitterly complaining that it’s because of the police that he had avoided joining the East Legon road. Well, you can’t cheat destiny.
We passengers crowded round the mate as he carefully counted coins into each fully outstretched hand, in full view of oncoming traffic. How embarrassing. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the last person I expected spoke up in a booming voice. He, the cause of our woes, the last one to get in, said that knowing we had one passenger too many, the mate should’ve got down at Spanner Junction and walked to Shangri-La to wait for us. So instead of being remorseful that he had prematurely ended our journey in the middle of the road, he was slapping blame?
We left the driver to sort out his troubles with the policeman alone. I slowly walked towards the Spanner Junction bus stop behind us, trying unsuccessfully to hide my shame. Our machoman was already there, still attacking trotros with his terrible technique. I should’ve kicked him and fled for dear life.
Moments later, I was seated at the very front of the top deck of a Metro Mass Transit double-decker bus with my feet up, observing the traffic from above. We were crawling as fast as an overfed turtle, but this time I was just grateful to be on my way, and really didn’t care.
I wonder what happened to the poor driver.