Pay for me

Most days that I end up closing late from work, there’s nothing more I look forward to than sitting at the back corner of a trotro at Circle, and falling asleep before we hit the roundabout. Somehow, I almost always wake up about five minutes away from Bridge.

The next best place to fall asleep, however, is in the front seat. There’s little chance of being repeatedly woken up in the middle of the journey. On one occasion, though, I got to know very early on that sleep was going to be impossible.

Perhaps I should’ve told the gentleman next to me in the front that I didn’t feel like talking. Perhaps I should’ve feigned sleep and a gentle snore the moment there was a lull in conversation. Perhaps I should’ve opened my book in the near darkness and put on my best look of deep concentration.

Soon after I sat down, he called for the pure water seller, quickly offering to buy me some. I wasn’t thirsty. He was a middle-aged man with an afro that gave indications of a lush past. He had an accent that I couldn’t quite place initially. It was confirmed he wasn’t from around here when he started asking me about business opportunities in Ghana. I mentioned oil, hoping that by talking about something so seemingly out of reach to the average trotro passenger, he’d back down. Unfortunately, he had his own businesses of interest and went full throttle asking about them. I talked freely. For some reason, I didn’t find him irritating at all.

“Yes, front!” The mate interrupted our conversation. I was ready to give my GH¢1 note. My new friend added his five pesewas – the change from the water he bought – to my money and passed it to the mate (at the time, the fare was fifty-five pesewas, and water still cost five pesewas). I was stunned speechless. Expecting that he was just making it easy to get his change, the mate called out to me, “One front!”

He turned to the mate and told him that he had paid for two, and even then, told the mate that that was all we had, short by five pesewas. My jaw was locked open. Yet, I was more tickled than annoyed at this stranger’s bold unspoken request for me to pay his fare. I wondered if I’d ever have the guts to pull a stunt like that. He went on talking like nothing had happened. Just two friends on a journey.

It turns out Philip left Ghana in the eighties, and while in Germany, received the Lord’s calling. He was a preacher in a German town I can’t remember. At Shangri-La, he got down, thanked me for my generosity, and with a promise that we’d meet again, he was out of my life as quickly as he had come into it.

However, being coerced to pay for someone comes in different shades. One morning, after an epic struggle to get into a trotro, the man in the row before mine was just about to pay up, when we heard a voice from the back, “Braa Kojo!” I had joined the trotro from the other side of the road and was the only one inside with this polished Legon girl by the time we turned to face the pack of waiting wolves.

I imagined she was this Kojo’s next door neighbour’s daughter, who never even looked in his direction in the area, because with a confused look, he mumbled, “Oh, errr, how’s your father?” Her gold-digging intentions were pretty obvious. He grudgingly added a few more coins. “Two,” he muttered. I’ll bet he wasn’t pleased. Thank God it wasn’t me. She’d probably be shocked to receive a wave back from me. From then on, I’d no doubt be branded the cheapest penny-pinching miser on the block.

I recall overhearing two public school children arguing in hushed tones about whose turn it was to pay. It just brought a smile to my face. I let them argue for a while before just mercifully paying for them. Another time, I was in the same taxi at Circle as some senior high school students. In my bid to invest in the next generation, I decided to pay for all of them.

Unfortunately, my maths couldn’t have failed me at a worse time. The look of humble satisfaction on my face as they thanked me, having done my good deed for the day, evaporated as the driver remorselessly blurted out with a smug look, “It’s not enough.”  I heard a snicker from the back. Ungrateful wretches! My shame was complete when before I could dole out the difference, the only girl among them stretched out her hand and paid off the rest. Disaster.


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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16 Responses to Pay for me

  1. lol, showed up by a little girl. Interesting post. I remember being embarassed into paying for some woman once. Needless to say, my mom teased me to death over the issue. The lady took me by surprise and i cringe whenever i think of that day.

    • Kwaku Dankwa says:

      Yeah, it can get a little awkward sometimes, huh? It’s even worse when you have like the exact money you’ll use on the next leg of your journey. Not fun one bit!

  2. Abby says:

    The guys is very brave!!!

  3. Ama says:

    Oh this is funny! Philip from Germany left my mouth open – I have seen things on trotskis but this one is way up there! and the sss kids … I’m sure they had something to laugh about when they next saw their friends!

    • Kwaku Dankwa says:

      As for those kids, thank God I’ll never see them again. Back in those days I used to take a taxi from Circle. Then I wised up and took the taxi from Ridge instead. Better still, I’d never remember them if I saw them again. Phew!

  4. sharlon says:

    hahahahahahaha. can’t stop laughing. that Philip guy is one brave man. I know I can’t do that. I’ve had such encounters before. Once i met a friend of a friend of my mother. yes! i hardly knew him but thought i was being polite so i greeted him. He said hi but suddenly looked displeased at something. when it was time to pay he insisted i keep my money yet he was not paying the mate. The mate kept stretching his hands and this man kept saying ‘wait ah’!! i got down at Legon and left him to continue his journey. God knows how that ended. another time a friend of mine got down from the trotro his sunday school kids had just joined. as soon as they good morning sir he said hi n goodbye pretending to have left something at home. (He had actually stood there for an eternity to get that car ooo). hahahahahahahahaha. It tickles me silly each time i remember it.

  5. Pila says:

    You got me reading with a stupid smile till the end. Nice piece

  6. esenam says:


  7. esenam says:

    Interesting, i don’t know how Pastor Philip pulled this one but i like his smartness. I am impressed, nice way of coercing others to be generous. 🙂 could pass for an award. way to go Philip!!

  8. christiana says:

    I’m surprised the Philip guy had the guts to do what he did.Some people are not shy at all.Heard of the story of how a guy was being kept from alighting b’cos he paid the fare with 10 cedis early in the morning when change was hard to come by. He was saved by an another passenger who paid b’cos he thought it was absurd.Perhaps u shd look at the other side of the coin.

    • Kwaku Dankwa says:

      Could’ve been a ploy, no? Maybe, maybe not. I’ve seen it done a few times, but only ‘cos it was in protest on having to add like 5 pesewas or so extra, and the passenger felt cheated.

  9. Joel says:

    Ooooh,this was refreshingly humorous!

  10. Raj says:

    Kwaks i dnt know how you do it….but i kept laughing all the way through. well my own experience was just last week on my way to Berlin, at the airport you have to pay a supplementary €1 before you can enter the airport from the metro. so i got to the machine with my €1 and just as i was about to slot it in an elderly black man goes like,
    hi do you speak english and i said yes thinking he needed help with the machine since instructions are in spanish. Then the next thing was can you give me €1 for the ticket please and just then i could not believe cos he did not show that he had money or not. So i ended up paying €3 for my journey to the airport which should have costed
    me 2.
    Now on my return to Madrid, again i go to get my ticket for my travel home which is €2 and at the machine a black boy walks to me and say can you please give me €2 for my ticket cos i have only some cents which i did not bother to check. I quickly told him off and asked myself if i looked like the bank of españa.

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