In line with the second anniversary of the blog, and giving some friends a chance to vent, we have another guest commuter on board. Veronique is the editor of Emerge magazine, and for those not in the know, it’s a bi-monthly magazine focusing on women’s strength, beauty and confidence. A through and through Tema girl (apart from a brief stroll through Atlanta), she’s got quite her own ups and downs. Have fun reading, comment, and please share.
I remembered Kwaku’s plea to share my public passenger ‘experiences’ or more aptly ‘encounters’ two minutes after I sat on the bus (Microbes Mass Transit). I had just wrapped up a business phone conversation with my colleague and bought my ticket when the lady sitting next to me motioned to the petty trader for a sachet of water. I mentally sighed with relief; thankfully and atypically, no droplets splashed my freshly pressed AfroChic dress as she hurled a hefty arm – inches away from my face and chest – to grab the globule of obviously lukewarm water on a slightly cloudy yet warm Wednesday morning.
By the time the bus took off, I was I re-reading my Daily Word reflection for the day, while relishing the surprisingly cushioned seats on the immaculately clean bus. Then I heard the familiar light thud despite my earphones: my neighbor had done it again. She had confidently thrown the half-drank sachet on the floor in front of her. My heart immediately sank a little. At least, the radio won’t be blaring at inappropriate decibels en route, I consoled myself. The trip was further interrupted by a young passenger who proceeded to jump off the bus to make an eleventh hour purchase, just as the driver was pulling out of the station, only to then scream, “Hey, hey, door!” to get back on.
As if on cue, a loud cough emanated from an undoubtedly uncovered mouth two seats ahead of me. I knew we were really on our way now.
How long have you held your breath? No, not when under water or while escaping a smoky building or kitchen. I mean when in a trotro, taxi or on a bus, and quite possibly while being driven at breakneck speed, perhaps in town or while being ricocheted along the motorway. Don’t ask me; I have broken all my own records during my daily commute. It’s not that I am a hyper-germophobe or hypochondriac by any means, but it seems many Ghanaians really do share much more than vehicles in transit. You may get much more than you hope or pay for when you utilize public transportation.
Take my literally whooping drive to 37, for instance. It had been a long day at the office and my colleague and I were delighted to catch a taxi headed to 37 taxi and trotro station for the second leg of our trips home. I sat in front to secure room for my long legs and buckled up for the short yet significant sojourn to Accra’s mini Grand Central Station. It was just as I turned to grab something quickly from my colleague in the backseat and just made it back to position that the first wheeze came. Okay, you have attention now, I mused as I realized it wasn’t the car or any other vehicle nearby. That thing sounded like it needed emergency medical attention. I froze for a second before rolling down the window, stretching my face as far out as I safely could, lest some undesired substance flew my way from that direction as well. Simply put, I didn’t want to go from scorching frying pan to fireside.
As the whooping cough continued, I prayed we would all at least make it to the station safely, since our chauffeur was visibly wobbling more with each cough and sputter. Flashbacks of primary school chose to surface. I had never met a whooping cough patient, but I was dead certain I had suddenly finally met a fellow with one of the intriguing six childhood killer diseases whose names and symptoms had been drummed into our young heads some two decades earlier. I still have a visual of droplets drawn from the mouth of a little boy on the poster of the Class Two wall. Equally memorable is the far-reaching fanlike spray of fluids from an unrestrained/uncontained sneeze courtesy of a GAST or some other secondary school science book. I shuddered at the thoughts and snapped back to reality as the whooping cabby struggled to change gears, jerking towards the suddenly far destination. A trotro might have been faster and safer tonight, I thought, carefully counting the exact fare to avoid any physical contact with the hand that had run across the coughing mouth and sniffling nose.
Finally, the brick wall loomed ahead. We jumped out for safety across the station, as he completed the show with a loud gurgle and roadside spit.
Before I knew it, we were at Spanner Junction, and the seemingly calm elderly man next to the teen with resplendent golden highlights was happily digging for nasal gold. I averted my gaze in anticipation of my transit at 37, wondering what other horrors the day could possibly have in store.