For me, leg room is a luxury in any trotro.
One Sunday, having been left behind, I had to trek to church by myself. I was in the first row – alone. Soon, I was lost in my daydreams. It wasn’t until we got to Silver Cup that I looked down and giggled. My legs were actually crossed! When was I last able to do that in a trotro? What a rare privilege.
Rare it is.
On hot mornings, I’m not in the mood to deal with the quirky ways of other commuters. In fact, I prefer to just quietly endure the crawling traffic and reach the relative comfort of my office as quickly as possible. Even the OK 101.7 FM newspaper review, which I happen to be a closet fan of, is noise to my ears. On this particular morning, I’d waited at the 37 bus stop longer than I deemed necessary, and was boiling inside, from both the heat and the frustration.
An Accra-bound Mercedes Benz 207 arrived, stopping right in front of me. I expected only one person to get out. Instead, a whole stream of passengers exited and got lost in the crowd behind me. Only I knew why I was cursing my hard luck, for I had no choice than to go to the back seat.
It so turned out that in this particular trotro, my foot had nowhere else to rest than right on the raised part with the tyre underneath. To make it worse, no amount of body contortion – which I’ve learnt to do over the years – seemed to work.
It was too cramped for me to find enough wiggle room. I singled out the plumb high school student at the other end as the scapegoat. With my knee uncomfortably sticking out I felt sorry for the one who’d sit in front of me. Within seconds, he arrived. He had a newspaper tucked firmly in his armpit and he wore a scowl tighter than ill-fitting spandex.
“My friend, put your leg down so I can sit,” he commanded matter-of-factly. I felt my unflattering first impression of him was vindicated. He didn’t look like the type to tolerate any nonsense.
“There’s no more room here,” I replied, almost apologetically. You better make do with what you have or go back out and struggle for the next non-existent trotro to Accra, I thought.
“Ah, so where do you want me to sit?”
C’mon, man, just lean forward a little bit. This is a trotro, not Business Class. “I have nowhere else to put my leg,” I shot back, a little too disrespectfully than I was raised.
His icy stare immediately froze out the glare of the baking sun. “Oh, is that so? Then carry the car.”
With that, he stomped out, almost shoving the passenger behind him out of the way. I was stunned silent. Not even I expected that. By the time we were bullying our way back onto the main road, however, my impolite encounter was a forgotten blip in history.
Another day, this man got in at Banku Junction. Soon, he was lost in his copy of 90 Minutes. He sat on the second row, and being a Nissan Urvan, was diagonally behind the mate. Through the traffic around Emmanuel Eye Centre he stayed engrossed in the ins and outs of Europe’s leagues, carefully turning each page of his newspaper like he was savouring French cuisine.
Then, at Shiashie, the driver’s mate jumped out, pushing his folding chair up to make way for the racing mob. “Accra, Accra,” he yelled. A cry of agony filled the air. Even the boarding passengers stopped in confusion. It looked like the jagged metal frame of the seat had crashed into the side of the man’s knee. I winced in pain for him. After a string of insults, he turned inward to us and boomed, “Why, these mates, they think the cars were made for Chinese people, eh?”
The laughter brought peace. Until we got to Shangri-La. Once again, the mate jumped out, mindlessly pushing the seat while calling for prospective passengers. This time, the agonizing sound of steel against bone was painfully clear. With rage in his eyes he caught the mate by the neck and shook him violently. “M’adamfo, do you want to kill me?!” This was hardly life-threatening, but being over six feet myself, I know exactly what it feels like to have that pain shoot through your body. I felt no sympathy for the hapless mate.
On too many trips my knees have scraped the dirty seat behind me, rubbed against the rusted frame of the trotro, and my shins have been kicked by fellow commuters fumbling over my long legs.
Unfortunately, I’ve grown used to it.