I’ve always maintained that the gains are minimal when trying to dodge the traffic of the main road. If I were driving, I’d probably just stick it out along Mensvic Hotel rather than take the back road at L’Ecole Francaise. Not trotro drivers. Sitting in slow-moving traffic on a tarred road turns their bellies. Every day we dash off towards the dusty paths leading into the Shiashie village. There, it can be likened only to Samurai warfare, where we all rush furiously at each other, and out of the smoke and dust survivors emerge victorious. Those who manage to ruin the paint jobs on their cars either choose to cut their losses or go down the gutter route. Too many times, it’s been the latter.
Take this morning last week for instance, when we were all rubbing shoulders in a bid to get off the bumpy road and join the jam ahead. Only the brave ventured. I took a look out of the window to my right, wondering what possessed this driver to bring his brand new Hyundai Sonata into such a high-risk environment. Perhaps the car wasn’t his, or he frankly couldn’t care less.
A few metres in front of us was a middle-aged woman with her windows rolled up. She looked like she had been frozen solid to the steering wheel of her Toyota Corolla. The honking behind her was maddening, as our driver slammed his wrist into his horn with all the frustration pent up in him. How didn’t her engine stall? Abuse was being shouted at her without mercy, both from our driver and the one trying to sneak up from her blind side. Passengers discussed female drivers, while our mate rubbished private car drivers’ road skills. Courageously she battled on. With a heavy foot on her accelerator, she made her way through. A grin immediately appeared on her face. The fickle crowd who were baying for her blood now talked about how daring she was.
Then it happened. A fairly new Honda Civic got scratched. The driver – complete in his shirt and tie – flared up, opened his door with a mighty push and stomped to the window of the guilty party. The driver of the Nissan Urvan didn’t look apologetic in the least. In his eyes, you had no business being here if you weren’t crazy enough to rough it out with the big bad boys. In fact, nobody else had the time of day. Drivers were demanding that the guy get on with his journey. Blocking the rest of the traffic behind him got everyone mad. I was itching to know how that episode ended, but our driver, recognizing the window of opportunity, leapt through and was quickly in the ebb and flow of the morning commute towards Emmanuel Eye Centre.
The next morning, we pushed our way to the end of the path, welcomed by commotion. A crowd had gathered, mostly passengers from the Mercedes Benz 207, and a taxi driver was being held back from either giving or receiving a beating from the trotro driver. Our driver was very interested in the fracas, and since there was no movement up ahead, he jumped in. Clearly, he was going to lend a supporting hand to his fellow driver. The Code of Honour (between trotro drivers) was at work. We heard the taxi driver demanding GH¢30 for the damage to his car.
The band of brothers was in uproar. How much?! “Are you mad?” they charged upon hearing this. For merely a loosening of the taxi’s number plate? A screwdriver fixed it, while a barrage of insults followed the taxi driver for his early morning greed. It was the talking point in the car till a skimpily-dressed lady walked by, diverting the attention of the masses to the moral bankruptcy of today. Anything to keep talking.
One evening, I had to make it to the Accra Mall immediately work closed. The traffic started from the Ako Adjei Interchange. I was chewing off my fingernails like they were diseased. As we tried to swerve through Kanda, the little roundabout was blocked. My heart could’ve stopped. I glanced out just in time to see a foot crash into a man’s chest. From the elevated seat of the large Mercedes Benz 507 (plying the Nima-Maamobi route) the trotro driver had begun his assault on the taxi driver below him. Grated metal lay as evidence of more road trouble. By-standers were shouting for the police directing traffic, while the rest of us tried to figure out a way to get away from this tangled mess.
I wonder what goes through a driver’s mind when his car is scratched. Maybe it turns the most gentle of men into one of the renegades of the road.