The more I thought about it, the hotter the sun grew. It wasn’t even ten in the morning. I was on leave and had to make a quick dash into town before settling for a relaxing week in bed. Tema Station was buzzing with activity. A salesman clutching a battery-operated stereo sang along to a tape he was playing. Does anyone still buy audio cassettes? After him, a drug peddler had his turn. I was more intrigued by the sales pitch than by the wonders of his product.
The disadvantage of being first into a trotro is that you have a long wait for it to get full. The advantage is in getting to choose your seat. So I plopped myself in the front.
One woman came carrying a heavy load of foodstuffs. The mate convinced her to pay double and lay her burdens on the next seat. She also had a worn black fertilizer bag filled with bagged gari that she placed in the space in front of the mate’s seat. Slowly, the trotro filled up. A heavyset woman walked leisurely to us as the mate shouted his lungs out, “Bawaleshie, America House, last one!” On her head, she balanced a black fertilizer bag containing three tubers of yam. “We’ve been waited for you a long time,” the playful mate chipped before he went screaming for his master, who was probably playing cards or draughts with the other station dwellers.
We zoomed out, swerving cars the driver deemed too slow, while trying to get as close to the speed of light as his aged Mercedes Benz 207 would allow. The aroma of my waakye wafted through my nostrils as the morning air whipped our faces.
“Mate, 37, bus-stop,” the big woman with yams interjected. Judging from the driver’s speed, it was a bit too close to the bus-stop, causing us to swerve sharply. Naturally, this triggered off a wave of complaints about the driver’s recklessness. As she got off, the mate gave her black fertilizer bag to her.
I don’t know if it was the driver’s wild driving or a problem at home, but what followed next was fit only for the gutters. Instead of the mate giving the woman her bag of yams, he mistakenly gave her the one containing gari and promptly yelled, “Away!” The first woman was furious. How dare this thief of a mate give the other woman a bag that didn’t belong to her? Was he blind? Or just stupid? Worse followed. Soon, the driver was caught in the war of words as well, receiving his share of abuse. I fumed. My waakye was getting cold.
Similarly, a young lady with a baby strapped tightly to her back got down with me at Shiashie on my way to work many months later. Struggling with baggage in each hand, she clumsily got out. A kind passenger was able to quickly push her baby’s head down, saving her from smashing in her own baby’s face. By this time, the mate had already run to the back, and in one sweeping motion, opened the boot unloaded her suitcase, and shut it with all his might. They were about to speed off when she shouted, “Mate, this isn’t my bag.” The puzzled look on his face gave me a sick feeling in my belly. All eyes were now on the scruffy lad.
The Fates must’ve been against him. What were the chances of similar suitcases being in the same trotro boot on the same journey? The mate was probably praying that he’d vanish. Everyone ganged up against him. Even the driver. Then the young woman started to cry. For the first time, I wasn’t curious to know how this would end.
But who can tell when one will be struck by misfortune? One Saturday afternoon, a young man got off at Banku Junction in East Legon, instructing the mate to take his box from the boot. As ill luck would have it, it turned out that when he was boarding the trotro at America House, he’d told the mate to pick up the box which lay a metre or two away from him. In his haste to pack us all in, Mr. Mate hadn’t heard. The young man was hysterical. Whatever was in the box must’ve been of great value. The driver had to quickly call the bookman at the station, who fortunately located the precious luggage. In a flash, the young man sat in a taxi without negotiating. His panic was enough to get conversation going among strangers in our trotro.
After all was silent again, one woman retorted with a scowl, “Maybe there was cocaine in the box.” I looked at her in disbelief. Here we go again.