For one living in East Legon and working in Adabraka, finding myself at Abeka Lapaz in the morning is strange. Not quite. My kind next door neighbour gave me a lift and happened to make a rather wide detour. I couldn’t complain. It was free lunch. After the Achimota overhead bridge, the traffic got insane. The side dirt road had cars backed up as far as the eye could see like a procession driver ants. The traffic was only worsened by two angry drivers being prevented by passersby from bashing each other’s brains in. Their two badly scratched cars blocked entry to the main road.
I studied my new surroundings. There were rows of snaking queues of bored commuters everywhere, patiently waiting for an unshaved shouting angel to appear in the gate of a trotro headed for their destination. But my, what order!
It was nothing like the craziness that defines Bridge and Shiashie in the mornings, where young men toss grandmothers aside like groundnut shells for the last seat. Couldn’t we be civil as well? Of course, I don’t appreciate the waiting in queues, but I could do without the savage survival-of-the-fittest – a mild reminder of man’s brutality against man.
This memory of Lapaz came to mind as I stood in line late one evening, all of us having the singular intention of making it to America House. It was dark, it was wet. A repulsive smell filled the air and hung like a heavy cloud. It’s the same one that fouls the station atmosphere anytime it rains. Though after nine, the long lines mingled and intertwined like lovers underneath the bright moon peeping through the clouds.
Yet, there is nothing romantic about the Kwame Nkrumah Circle station. In fact, despite the orderliness, it was painful. A group of guys ahead of me had devised a rather dishonourable scheme. Two of them stood in the Haatso line, two of them were in front of me, and one more was in the IPS/Estate line. They were talking so loudly across that it was not difficult to see what mischief they were up to. I was hoping that the Haatso trotro would arrive first to get this loud cackling gang away from me.
No sooner had I muttered it under my breath than the trotro came, splashing muddy water everywhere. Unfortunately, it was the America House line that shifted into motion. The other members of the group deserted their places and nestled in front of me, without so much as an acknowledgement. I missed the bus by one passenger.
Having been brought up on a culture of elbowing and shoving, standing in queues can be a welcome change. Usually, I play a game on my phone to pass the time, unconsciously putting temptation in the way of some wretched soul. However, I once took a glance at the Adenta lines, and I saw a man sitting cross-legged in a plastic chair, smack in the middle of the line. Rheumatic pain? Advancement in years? But how did the chair get there? He rested his chin in his palms, very relaxed despite the sea of frustration around him, written clearly on the faces of impatient commuters.
One evening, I got to the station, still fuming from having missed the getaway car at work. It was disappointing that the funny bare-footed in-house preacher and his sidekick in ministry hadn’t come. Maybe the rain had proved a stumbling block to the work of the Lord, or they were winning the lost in new mission fields. A splash interrupted my thoughts, followed by a barrage of expletives. I winced for the young man who had landed in a puddle right up to his ankles. Walking around with a squidgy shoe is more maddening than an itch on your back in public (I was once texting while walking down my bush path two minutes from home. Any other day, I could’ve made that walk with my eyes closed. Not this time. A shoe full of water drained my cockiness and left me screaming inside.)
So here I was, having queued for close to an hour. A young riff-raff pretending to make a call had been lurking around the front of our line. He had tried unsuccessfully to cross the first time. The women behind me had sternly warned me not to let him go before me. Don’t worry, I thought to myself as I transformed into Mr. Hyde, I know what to do. A banged up trotro rumbled towards us. I glanced at the dude from the corner of my eye and readied my elbow for impact with his ribcage. Luckily for him, the bucket of bolts bypassed us and went to park, closed for the day. The wait continued.