Our driver was getting on my nerves, and we weren’t even out of East Legon yet. The morning scramble had already created two lanes at the Shiashie village. After a short very impatient wait, he swung the stiff steering wheel with all his might to the left, bounced us along a little bit and floored the accelerator towards the oncoming traffic, effectively pioneering a third row.
Sometimes, I secretly admire the brave ways of some drivers, trying every trick in the book to get slightly ahead. Not this guy. He had total disregard for the laws of the road. Sure, I’d arrive at work fifteen minutes earlier, but his cockiness was playing games with my blood pressure.
Up ahead, a Nissan Patrol approached. Obviously, the two drivers weren’t singing from the same hymn sheet. The white man was in no mood to budge. He just stopped and rested his hand on his horn.
A wide grin spread over my face. This was a classic example of cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face, for here I was, at a complete dead end, and all I felt was joy that this trotro driver had met his match.
Then, a honk jerked me back to reality. The driver of the trotro next to ours was beckoning us in front of him. Did these two even know each other? It didn’t look like it, if my driver’s stony face was anything to go by. With a blank wave, he got into the proper lane, still scanning for the slightest opportunity to go ahead by two or three cars. The fellow who let us in front of him was just slouched over his steering wheel. What opposites.
But why didn’t he pass and insult our driver and make him face the consequences of his impatience? It’s The Code. The Gentlemen’s Code, if you like. It appears trotro drivers, whether or not they know each other, or whether they’re from the same station or not, believe that on the road, you help another driver in need, for one day, you yourself will be in need. Occasionally, a few drivers get into a spat and rip The Code to shreds, but by and large, it’s respected.
One other morning, our driver branched off onto the ill-advised off-road route next to Calvary Baptist Church at Shiashie. We eventually wound up facing Legon, attempting to make the U-turn at the Ghana Standards Authority traffic lights. The first drivers to discover that route cut their time on the road by twenty minutes at least. Today, it was a nightmare. In the front seat, the sun cooked my face. Sweat poured like a waterfall. The solid air was unbearably hot and it looked like we’d be there a while. So many cars wanted to make the U-turn that there was only one lane left for those who were actually going straight. Chaos.
Our driver kept swerving right till he was in the last lane. In a cruel twist of fate, the policemen suddenly appeared. The plan was disintegrating fast. We’d next be ordered to drive on, where we would only be able to make another turn at Okponglo. Unacceptable. The insults from within the car on the driver’s head were enough to leave him mentally scarred. Somebody needed to be a sounding board for all the pent up frustration only brought to a boil by the ferocious sun and the choking traffic.
I doubt he heard us, though. Beads of sweat were popped on his head as he tried to escape the unfortunate outcome of his foolish decision. All seemed lost. Two private cars had been forced to go straight, having been denied entry into the lane by other cars. Our driver looked like he’d wet his trousers any moment. Or worse. The car shook because his legs were trembling. His gamble had woefully failed, and now he was staring disaster in the face. It was every driver for himself as the policemen stretched the arm of the law and brandished brutal punishment to any who fell foul. We were definitely goners.
Then, with all hope seemingly lost, another trotro driver motioned ours to get in front of his at the last minute. Yet he didn’t allow the private cars go? The Code. This trotro driver bullied his way in, leaving us enough space in front of him to make the U-turn.
I’ve seen a trotro driver defend another who was having a war of words with a Kia Sorento driver, even though the trotro was in the wrong. The Code. Trotro drivers have held up traffic for others to make illegal turns. This band of brothers, sworn to defend each other, and maybe one day get a favour in return from some unknown kinsman.