Lateness can make people do crazy things. Standing at a bus-stop, it’s easy to observe the different personalities who come in search of trotros to work. Here was this lady in a charcoal suit. Her heels must’ve been at least three inches. Next to me was a man talking loudly on his phone. He couldn’t help stealing glances at her every few seconds. The sight of this lust-stricken Romeo clearly punching above his weight made me laugh within me. No trotro was coming our way, except the full ones. I decided to give it five more minutes before succumbing to the honking taxi drivers slowing down as they approached Bridge.
And then, a trotro appeared out of nowhere. Nobody bothered to find out where it was going. At least, I didn’t. I held the front door handle. It slipped out of my grasp. I looked back helplessly at the struggling multitude behind me. It wasn’t a pretty sight. My adrenaline was rushing. By some miracle, I found myself being pushed in rather than out. I couldn’t even back out if I wanted to. It was hot, and I expected at any moment, my favourite shirt would be soiled. Worse still, torn. Thank God, it made it unscathed. I patted myself to make sure that my phone, wallet, glasses and watch were intact, as the ungentlemanly mate threw out a pleading passenger who wanted his seat.
I had no sympathy for the Peeping Tom who had missed the bus. All he had to show for his struggle was a crumpled shirt. And then, my gloating turned to guilt. I lowered my head in shame when I saw a sad-looking old lady I knew I should’ve surrendered my seat for had been left behind with the pack of wolves. I was trained better.
Away we went. I have no idea how the polished lady got in, but she must’ve been one of the first. Amazing. I imagined her clawing her way aboard in slow motion. She caught my attention again, rummaging through her handbag. I was curious. She slowly pulled out a small hand-held mirror and a comb. She didn’t seem to mind at all where she was. Now I was the one who was staring. After that came a make-up kit. I felt like I was being schooled. How do you reconcile the tigress who ripped her way through a fighting mob to this one carefully applying only-women-know-what on her face in the midst of total strangers? She was taking her time too. I could almost hear the music. Her audience of one was transfixed. Trotros aren’t just about the noisy, dirty and unmannered, after all.
I’ve seen all sorts in trotros. There are the haves and the have-nots. Yet, after being a regular on the circuit since my teen years, I can safely arrive at the conclusion that provided you’ve chosen to be in one, whatever the reason may be, the trotro is no respecter of person, status or class.
One morning, this young lady was clearly struggling with the passenger next to her. They were in the first row, and I was right behind them. The two couldn’t be more contrasting. She was perfumed, in a crisp shirt, and most likely worked in an office all day. She had fake hair and fake nails. He was in soiled overalls, and had a worn bag of tools on his lap. Poor guy, he was probably sweating too profusely for her liking, and the sun wasn’t even blazing yet. The young lady would’ve disappeared into the floor of the trotro if that were possible. All the way from Shangri-La she shifted uneasily in her seat.
At 37, the man was getting down. There was only one person in the front seat of the Mercedes Benz 207. In a flash, she inched her skirt up and stretched her leg over the gear. Before the person trying to get into the vacant seat knew it, she was settled and straightening her skirt again. The driver looked at her in disbelief. She shot him back an icy look that could’ve screamed, “What, you got a problem, dude?!”
Perhaps for a brief moment, decorum and gentility have no place in the trotro. I’ve seen men in ties swing from the first row seat to the front seat in one leap – in a manner which you should only see in person to believe – and desperate commuters on the way to Adenta or some other far off place, climb in through the back window with a grin.
Next time, look at the person next to you in the trotro, and imagine the most bizarre thing they’d do when faced with an uncomfortable trotro situation. You’ll be surprised that they’ve done worse.