Since the last time I let Enyima on here, I’ve received incessant requests for her to have an encore. For the sake of my sanity, here she is again with her own rib-cracking take on the commute in the UK, where she lives and works. You’ll love it. Please, comment beneath.
The last time Asomasi let me hijack his blog for a week, it was all drama and suspense – a real life experience spiced up with everything except an over-the-top attempt at ominous-sounding background music (think Nollywood movie when the evil husband-snatcher is pouring rat poison into the oblivious wife’s Malta Guinness, looking furtively over her shoulder to see if anyone has noticed a stranger in a bright red boubou tip-toeing around Chief Oguntola Davids’ gaudy mansion).
This time, I’ve toned it down a little. I’m in the throes of pre-examination panic and the creative juice-factory in my head has all but shut down. It’s all financial reporting rules, tax-saving strategies, general confusion and occasional anxiety-induced hyperventilation up there, so my apologies. There are no tales of run-ins with ganja-boys in this piece. Just an experience I’ve had in both my Ghana and UK commutes that I thought I’d share.
A few weeks ago I was on the bus home from the city centre, balancing my book-bag and handbag on my lap and bag of groceries on my feet, trying not to spill my stuff into the narrow centre aisle and silently chiding myself for not picking a seat with more leg-room. I was, as is typical after a long day of study, in a bit of a bad mood – a mood only worsened by the fact that I didn’t have a free hand to raise the volume on my iPhone and drown out the sound of Disgruntled Screaming Baby.
Barely five minutes into the journey, I felt a tap on my shoulder and immediately my guard was up. People don’t just randomly tap other people on Bus 35 – unless one of those people is a chatty old lady, oblivious to the fact that times have changed and touching strangers gets you a filthy look at best and a stab to the chest at worst. Before I could turn around to shoot said filthy look at my tapper, a handwritten note scrawled onto a hastily torn-off piece of paper was shoved in my face, accompanied by a heavily-accented, “Excuse me, this is for you.”
In retrospect, I wish I had read what heart-melting words this Nigerian Neruda had written, but as I was in no frame of mind to be swept away by Love at First Read, a curt “No thank you” was my retort, after which I went back to staring at the riveting scenery of shops, flats and run-down warehouses whizzing by. Thankfully, he wasn’t the persistent type and the rest of the journey home was uneventful.
Anti-climactic, I know, but the whole incident took me back to my trotro hey-days of the late 20th century, when at least once a week some randy bachelor (or father-of-three, who’s to say?) would express his interest in being my “friend”. It was always on that stretch of road between Sankara and Equip (yes, I realise I am old and that Equip is now Busy Internet – or was that L’Air Liquide?) and I was never remotely interested – maybe because I was all of 13 years old at the time. Perverts.
Looking back, I’m a little disturbed by the fact that certain adult males did not find it inappropriate to try to chat me up whilst I was still in my “kokonte ne nkatekwan” school uniform, never mind in a cramped, humid rust-bucket travelling at 80 miles an hour. Even worse was the standard of the “game” being spat. It ranked somewhere between shameful and awful. A typical conversation usually went something like this:
Perv: Excuse me, can I ask you a question?
Me: (Isn’t that a question in itself?) Okay
Perv: Are you a Christian?
Perv: So you believe in God?
Me: (No, I’m an atheist Christian) Yes.
Perv: I am a Christian too.
Me: (Fancy that! I would’ve never thought so looking at you) Okay.
Perv: I want to be your friend.
Me: Okay. (See a pattern in my responses here? Fellas it’s called disinterest. Take a hint and move on.)
Perv: So where do you stay?
Me: (You mean where do I live? Why would I tell a stranger that? Bold-faced lie coming up) Mamprobi.
Perv: I stay at Lartebiokorshie. Do you know there?
Me: (No, somehow I’ve lived in the adjacent neighbourhood for over a decade and yet I have never heard of it) Yes.
Perv: Do you know there very well?
Me: No. (But I’m sure you’re dying to show me the wonders of the local check-check joint)
Perv: You are not talking very much. Why?
Perv: (Oddly encouraged by my reticence) I want to be your friend.
Me: (And I want a million dollars, but I’m living contentedly with the knowledge that I don’t have it and won’t for a long time) Okay.
Perv: You are a very nice girl. (Toothy grin)
Me: (Hah – keep talking and you’ll realise that’s not true) Thank you.
Me: Bus Stop!
Perv: You are alighting at Equip?
Me: Yes, I am going to visit my uncle who is a manager there. (Code for: don’t even consider following me or my big, bad uncle will beat you to into apotoyiwa-grade tomato puree)
Perv: Okay. So how can I contact you?
Perv: Can I have your address?
Perv: Do you have a phone at home?
Me: No. (Lie number two in the space of ten minutes. This man was doing nothing for my morals)
Perv: What’s your name?
Me: Asabea. (Lie number three! Three lies and the conversation was officially no longer worth having. I started squeezing my way out of the trotro)
Perv: Okay, Asabea. Maybe I’ll see you again. I’m Prince.
Me: Uh huh.
To this day I have never seen an onboard proposition result in the exchange of phone numbers, let alone vows. But then again I only ever catch a few minutes of The Hunt – far too little time to predict whether the gazelle escapes the lion or is dragged down by the ankles and devoured by the whole pride. All I know is there’s a time and a place for everything and when it comes to making a good first impression on a woman (or girl), the bus or the trotro at rush hour Just Ain’t It. Consider yourselves told.