I’ll admit, I wasn’t very fond of him from the start. It was dislike at first sight. He spoke roughly to everyone, and though it was his right, he asked a frail old lady to get down when she had taken the mate’s seat. By then he could do no right in my eyes, anyway. A second and third chance to redeem his image went wasted. I wrote him off.
It was as if this driver was determined to break every rule in the book. On every back road he managed to squeeze his way through and push cars out of the way. He sped over bumpy paths like we were on a runway. Nothing happened around him that didn’t draw comment. Fifteen minutes later, I was tired of his uncultured ramblings. It was as if he’d been promised a Cedi each time he said Kwasia. With time, I noticed the insults were reserved for private cars, a trotro driver’s bitterest enemies.
Sitting next to this guy wasn’t a pleasure. I couldn’t wait to be rid of him. Yet, in the short period of our lives we spent together, he gave me more than enough to remember him by. In the bumper-to-bumper crawl at Emmanuel Eye Clinic, for instance, a Toyota Yaris tried to get in front of him. Our man floored his accelerator to get within inches of the next car. With a menacing look he stuck his head out and snarled in Twi, “Come, I’m waiting for you. I’ll scratch you, you’ll see.” He meant every word.
The Yaris was undeterred. It better be comprehensively insured, I thought. He got level and complained, “Memaa wo light!” My driver was certainly not satisfied with the universal language of the trafficator. More insults were traded. Just let it go, man! Eventually, he did, leaving the trotro driver with a goofy look of triumph and got him started on all the transgressions of private car owners.
Thing is, there always seems to be a battle going on between trotros and privately-owned cars. I can’t count the number of times a mate has spewed sewage, for whatever reason, on a man in a tie driving to work.
We bullied our way from the inner lane to the Shiashie bus stop. Getting back in proved a lot more difficult than anticipated. A lady driving a black Hyundai Tucson was determined not to let him cross. Her eyes focused straight ahead, and she was all but in a tight embrace with her steering wheel. My driver eventually succumbed to her stubbornness. “Kwasia, if you let me come, what will happen?” he shouted loudly. “Like you’d do any different,” I mumbled.
Thing is, the worst is reserved for female drivers. On one occasion, a trotro driver was weaving his way through traffic with total disregard for other road users. At the Tetteh-Quarshie Interchange he got into a jam with the cars joining from the road adjacent to African Regent Hotel. We were all shoulder to shoulder, neither willing to stand down. You should’ve heard the disbelief in the mate’s voice as he exclaimed to his master, “Ei, it’s a woman!” The driver looked like he’d been electrocuted. Or was his pride wounded?
A passenger on one trip, seeing how a woman in the next lane wouldn’t allow the trotro we were in to rudely cut in front of her, remarked to nobody in particular, “You’re a woman. You shouldn’t …” He wasn’t allowed to end his chauvinistic statement when Catwoman next to him interjected, “And so what?!” Within minutes it had degraded into a free-for-all, complete with vulgar language and sexist stereotyping. Just what I needed.
A taxi driver once had a specialized insight into the life of every driver who gave him reason to step on his brakes. If it wasn’t a young suited man embezzling his employers’ money, it was a made-up lady who was stealing someone’s husband, and yet another in a new car who got interviewed in hotel rooms. His face was encrusted in a scowl. If it meant he decided that suicide, with me in the car, was a brilliant idea I wanted to be far away from him.
I’ve always wondered why white plates and yellow plates can’t just get along. Perhaps it’s a war of the classes. How else could you explain a whole trotro justifying their driver intentionally ramming into a Honda Civic and driving off, just because the latter slowed down to allow another car to go before him? We drove off, my fellow commuters leaving a trail of abuse behind. Serves him right, the passengers collectively decided.
Today, ask any mate today and he’ll tell you, “Plavate” car owners don’t know how to drive.
Look who’s talking.