Dark suits and darkened soles

Lateness can make people do crazy things. Standing at a bus-stop, it’s easy to observe the different personalities who come in search of trotros to work. Here was this lady in a charcoal suit. Her heels must’ve been at least three inches. Next to me was a man talking loudly on his phone. He couldn’t help stealing glances at her every few seconds. The sight of this lust-stricken Romeo clearly punching above his weight made me laugh within me. No trotro was coming our way, except the full ones. I decided to give it five more minutes before succumbing to the honking taxi drivers slowing down as they approached Bridge.

And then, a trotro appeared out of nowhere. Nobody bothered to find out where it was going. At least, I didn’t. I held the front door handle. It slipped out of my grasp. I looked back helplessly at the struggling multitude behind me. It wasn’t a pretty sight. My adrenaline was rushing. By some miracle, I found myself being pushed in rather than out. I couldn’t even back out if I wanted to. It was hot, and I expected at any moment, my favourite shirt would be soiled. Worse still, torn. Thank God, it made it unscathed. I patted myself to make sure that my phone, wallet, glasses and watch were intact, as the ungentlemanly mate threw out a pleading passenger who wanted his seat.

Continue reading

Posted in Tales from a trotro | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments

Quiet, please!

I braced myself for the unique stink at the Kwame Nkrumah Circle Station after the day’s rains. Along with the darkness (and the opportunistic pickpockets that come with it), the mucky ground and the bending queues, the last hazard I wanted to wrestle with was the noise. After a day where two weeks’ worth of thinking had just been flushed down the toilet by the client, I craved a soothing piano concerto with a cold drink. Instead, I was to be entreated to the prophetic words of Ebenezer Yahweh of Yudaism Seventh Day. Or something like that.

Continue reading

Posted in It all starts in the station | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Bag a bargain

Fashionista. That’s the one word that comes to mind when thinking about Dodzi Anku, our guest commuter for today. Maybe living in both Singapore and Canada at two different times of her life had something to do with it. We’ve been through the trenches together, right from the days when she killed my work in my early days as a copywriter here at Origin8 Saatchi & Saatchi. From dark poetry to fashion tips, she’s done it all. She just started a new blog. You may wanna check it out: www.sillybeanm.tumblr.com. Enjoy. Comment as usual.

*******

Where two or more cars are gathered in traffic, there in the midst of them are all kinds of traders selling all manner of goods. Crawling through the thick traffic heading towards 37 from the Spintex Road on a typical weekday morning, I saw a street trader haggling with a passenger over the price of some children’s football jerseys. The man behind the wheel was obviously a keen football fan, having a number of football club souvenirs in his car. The footaholic mentioned a price to the trader, who laughed and shook his head. Undeterred, Mr. Footaholic folded up the jersey and handed over a few notes to the trader.

The trader, thinking Mr. Footaholic had changed his mind, reached out for the money but recoiled his hand like he’d been stung when he saw it wasn’t the price he quoted. Now it was Mr. Footaholic’s turn to act shocked. He promptly withdrew his hand of cash, and almost shoved the jersey back into the trader’s face. He refused to take it, and flashed a smile that beamed, “oh my brother let’s work this out.” Mr. Footaholic wasn’t having any of it. As if fate was spinning things in his favour, the traffic suddenly started speeding up. Mr. Footaholic waved the hand of cash in front of the trader’s face, almost as if to say, “This is your last chance.” It was the moment of truth. Who would win? Who would lose?

Continue reading

Posted in Accra living | Tagged , , , | 12 Comments

Why did the chicken cross the road?

Every few minutes, I’d stare desperately at my watch. I was waiting for a trotro at Bridge, pacing up and down like an expectant father. No doubt I’d be very late for work, and the chicken scratching and pecking around me wasn’t helping things. Chickens of today aren’t what they used to be, I thought. I remember when I was eight years old an angry mother hen chased me because I’d ventured to pick my ball that had fallen a bit too close to her feeding chicks. It mentally scarred me. I looked with disgust at this overly domesticated bird.

Continue reading

Posted in The streets | Tagged , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Authorized road users only, please!

I’ve had it with motorcycles not stopping at traffic lights, even in the full glare of the police. Take one morning when a smallish man zoomed through red at the Airport traffic lights after stopping less than five seconds. His shirt was at least two sizes too big, and it flapped in the wind like a parachute behind his shiny new Haojin motorbike. What made me pay attention to it was the sound it made. No, not the purr of his engine. It talked. Yes, the engine spoke when he came to a halt. Clear sentences that made sense … if you spoke Korean. Or Chinese? It reminded me of my National Service days – and rather unsuccessful attempts at riding – in Brewaniase.

I could go on about how much motorcyclists rub me the wrong way, but at least, they happen to be licensed. Truck-pushers and the like are the real menace on the roads, as if trotro drivers aren’t enough of a nuisance.

Continue reading

Posted in The streets | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Tricks of the trade

It was about a quarter to seven on a cool Tuesday morning in this Mercedes Benz Sprinter. I’ll never forget one passenger. He wore a well-worn Barcelona jersey of questionable genuineness. He was at the back, and being of average height he was hidden in the corner when he put his head down in deep sleep. He handed over his money – thirty pesewas – and promptly returned to his nap. “Shangri-La,” he mumbled, in a hurry to continue the dream he had on pause. Past desperate commuters at Shiashie we drove, through the Tetteh Quarshie interchange morning jam, away from the police waiting for some unlucky victim at Spanner Junction, while inching closer to Shangri-La. The gentleman never stirred, despite the mate’s shrill cries. “Shangri-La! Shangri-La! Airport first! Second! Away to Opeibea!”

Continue reading

Posted in Tales from a trotro | Tagged , , , , , | 8 Comments

Good cop, bad cop

It was all so familiar. Driving through the slow motion of the morning commute, just a few metres past the Spanner Junction traffic lights, I saw a parked Nissan Urvan at the side of the road. The driver was pleading his case, the mate had a remorseful look on his face, and the passengers were fuming. Soon, they would gang up on the mate and demand coins to be able to complete their journey. And then, to make the scene complete, there was one policeman and the same traffic assistant who had once stopped a trotro that I was in. I shook my head in sympathy. No way would that driver be able to wriggle free of the firm grip of the law.

Still, I’ve seen many a driver get off the hook just by presenting his driver’s license or insurance papers.

Continue reading

Posted in The streets | Tagged , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Order in chaos

A gust of wind lashed my bare face early one morning as I made the short walk from the Accra Psychiatric Hospital bus stop to my office. Angry thunderclouds were quickly assembling high above my head. As usual, I had no umbrella. Don’t rain, I pleaded. Both shoulders were hunched closer to my body to minimize the bite of the cold air. My pace quickened. I crossed two beggars who didn’t seem to be in a hurry to find shelter from the looming downpour. Money has no time off, I reasoned. Then, one look behind me, and I could see brisk business going on. With the traffic lights not working, the area boys were once again lords of the roads. They were daring the storm to do its worst. With their nim tree branches raised over their heads they had the whole traffic situation under control.

Continue reading

Posted in The streets | 6 Comments

Let there be light

Late one night, a work colleague dropped me off at the Accra Mall, from where I’d have to negotiate the last leg of my commute back home. I’d done it many times. Since the journey is too short to get any meaningful sleep I do everything possible not to, or risk missing my stop at Bridge. On this occasion, however, I had more reason to stay awake: the green colonial-era machine in which I had entrusted my life had no headlights!

Continue reading

Posted in The streets | 4 Comments

The war of the plates

I’ll admit, I wasn’t very fond of him from the start. It was dislike at first sight. He spoke roughly to everyone, and though it was his right, he asked a frail old lady to get down when she had taken the mate’s seat. By then he could do no right in my eyes, anyway. A second and third chance to redeem his image went wasted. I wrote him off.

It was as if this driver was determined to break every rule in the book. On every back road he managed to squeeze his way through and push cars out of the way. He sped over bumpy paths like we were on a runway. Nothing happened around him that didn’t draw comment. Fifteen minutes later, I was tired of his uncultured ramblings. It was as if he’d been promised a Cedi each time he said Kwasia. With time, I noticed the insults were reserved for private cars, a trotro driver’s bitterest enemies.

Continue reading

Posted in The streets | 26 Comments