Truth be told, I’m no fan of the rainy season. It’s a huge inconvenience, all about muddy shoes and wet clothes. Getting around is hard enough without having to worry about cats and dogs pouring down. For taxi drivers on the other hand this is the time for reaping, and a bumper harvest at that.
One night, I had to go home later than usual. While at the National Theatre bus stop – where a New York City taxi was once famously mounted – it started raining lightly. Three cute umbrellas went up around me. I was left to the mercy of the elements. “Forget trotro,” I muttered, hands stuck firmly in my pockets like that would keep me dry.
I was angry at myself. How could I not bring an umbrella to work? And what happened to the bus shelter here? The rain was getting heavier. Driving a stake deep into Chivalry’s heart, I jumped into the first taxi to come honking by before the three women could move.
“Yessah, oo…,” I greeted.
“Yessah.” He was sizing me up. I could feel it.
“America House,” I said through clenched teeth. I was getting cold.
KA-CHING! The shark had smelled blood. “One five.” He looked away immediately.
Fifteen Cedis? Was he sleepy? Could he really have no idea where America House was? On second thoughts, this was a premeditated attempt at pure robbery. The few times I’ve taken taxis, I’ve avoided mentioning “East Legon”. It just puts temptation in the way of taxi drivers.
He asked me to name my price. Was it even worth the effort? I had no intention of going beyond GH¢8, and even that was accounting for rain-induced inflation. He would hear none of it. That was that. Talks quickly broke down, and it was a cold return to Mother Nature’s tears.
In a cruel twist of fate, his taxi wouldn’t start. The driver quickly buried his head under his bonnet. A few knocks to the battery didn’t do the trick. I was desperately looking in the distance for salvation when I heard him call. He begged for a push. The three women just looked away. Push in the rain? Alone? I threw daggers into his body with an icy stare before obliging. I would’ve wilted in shame if my macho display had ended up in only aching muscles and no response from the engine. Thank God.
Another rainy evening, I had got a lift up to the Accra Mall. Instead of joining the huddled mass under the bus shelter waiting for a trotro, I unwillingly settled for a taxi to get home. The driver was shouting obscenities at someone on the phone, threatening harm to her if she didn’t get him the money she owed him. It was dark and the roads were slippery, and this agitated man was playing with my life like this? Too tired to argue, I dozed off.
The speed with which we flew over a ramp shook me awake. The rain was considerably lighter. By the time we reached Newmont, I thought I was dreaming. Not a drop! The roads were dry. I wanted to roll down to let out the stuffiness. Nothing. Here we go again. “Driver, can I get a roller?”
He handed me a screwdriver. I stared at it with a most confused look on my face. We stopped by the road at Banku Junction. He stuck the tip at the top of the glass and went to work like it was a crowbar. Having made a small opening he asked me to push it down all the way as he noisily started his car. Fortunately, I was almost home. I just hoped the rain wouldn’t start again before we got there. If it took a screwdriver to get the window down, I shudder to think what would get it up. Magic, perhaps.
Maybe it’s a stroke of bad luck that taxis choose the worst times to get problems. Like when I helped a friend one evening to get a taxi. It was rather windy and it smelt like rain, so she settled for what on another day would’ve been shameless robbery. I noticed its hazard lights as it sputtered away. A precaution in anticipation of a downpour? Five minutes later, my friend called. The car was jerking badly, though the driver all but swore it could make the trip. Dropping off at the side of a busy road, having to walk to a bus stop, and getting her hair wet at the time was obviously a better option.
Rainy seasons are great for taxi drivers. I can visualize them rubbing their palms in glee anytime it rains. After all, when else can they extort ridiculous sums – without a shred of compassion – from the commuting public?