Woes of Late Commuters
How time flies. It was already 5 pm. Indeed it was such a busy day for Bensah Mensah. He was more than exhausted. He was excited that it was time to close and go home. A journey that should take less than an hour to cover during off pick would now take hours – having to wait hours for a vehicle and the actual journey. The thought of it was so dreadful. He picked up his bag and headed in the usual direction where a long queue of commuters were waiting for their turn to board vehicle.
At the station, he met long and winding queues. The queues for various destinations had formed into patterns so beautiful. Some running parallel, others almost are bending to join other ones. Some actually were formed into the figure six. He went from one to the other trying to locate his. He found it eventually.
"You're after someone behind me. He just asked that I excuse him and would be back," a passenger instructed.
That isn't new anyway so Mensah didn't put up any challenge. He didn't want to be drawn into any long useless arguments. People jumped queues in the name of having been in the queue much earlier before stepping aside for one reason or the other. This sometimes results in confrontations out of misunderstanding or frustration they have carried from their various places of work.
Flashing vehicle lights and honking horns were all over. The station was heavily choked with vehicles that were haphazardly parked, loading to various destinations.
"For all you know, all these vehicles here are going to our place o. But for no apparent reason, they wouldn't want to load," Mensah spoke for the first time.
"Yes o…you're right. They do it always especially around this time when there are a lot of passengers," the man standing behind him replied.
"It appears they enjoy seeing us queue like this! Can you imagine?" a young man added.
Both young and old including the physically challenged were all in the key. Nobody was prepared to sacrifice his place neither were they prepared for any consideration. They stood and waited until their legs began to wobble before a vehicle bound for their destination, started loading. The mate didn't bother to open the gate to the vehicle. He knew the passengers would do it. All he had to do is to shout to call them to board his vehicle. After all they were in a hurry to go home.
"I no get change o…so if you know you have big denomination, find change before you board the vehicle!" the mate sounded caution.
"Adjust a little more so I can sit well," said a passenger to another who was already seated.
"There's no more space," she replied.
He managed the space available but soon realised he wasn't properly seated. He stretched his neck and saw a bag besides the woman sitting at the far end by the window.
"Madam, remove your bag so that we can sit well," he appealed to the woman.
She frowned and shrugged but managed to push herself an inch closer to her bag.
Within seconds, the vehicle was fully loaded. But it was blocked on every side so that it could not move out of the station. There was so much heat in the car. Passengers by the window managed to open those that could be opened anyway to let in some fresh air. It was not every window on these trotros that could be opened due to poor maintenance. Some required a lot of strength to open. In some cases, there are no glasses in the window at all so that when it is raining, a passenger by the window side is left to its mercy. And if the vehicle was moving at a top speed and air begun to gush in, there was little a passenger could do.
The vehicle had finally moved out of the station onto the main road. Everybody was breathing a sigh of relief. But that was almost the beginning of new woes. There was go-slow. Vehicles were virtually crawling! During this time the smart drivers were fond of cutting corners - driving on the shoulders of the road - to join the main road just to avoid the traffic. Whereas some drivers would allow those vehicles to join in front of them, others had to forcefully resist. This often came at a cost. Those that force their vehicles into the main traffic got others as well as theirs scratched or seriously damaged.
"Driver, don't allow any vehicle that is not in the traffic cross you o. We all want to get home early to see our children before they sleep," Mensah warned.
"Eeei…Ghana…, when at all will this kind of thing come to end?" a female passenger asked rather rhetorically.
There was no light in the vehicle. The mate collected the fares and checked them with light provided by his mobile phone.
"Ehee…Ghana trotro…you don't even have light inside the car. Meanwhile you're making sales every day," a passenger observed.
The driver replied, "It was working yesterday all right. I have no idea why it's not working this evening."
Well, no one was ready to take him serious for that explanation. It was normal for drivers to give such excuses regarding one dysfunctional part of the vehicle or the other. This one, passengers could not easily fault drivers unless it has something to do with fares.
"Driver, reduce the volume of the music eh…the sound is too much... we are already tired. And this loud noise is only making us sick the more," a passenger begged.
"You carry passengers in your vehicle and you're playing loud music as though you're in your bedroom," another passenger shouted from the back.
The driver reserves the right as to what he did with the vehicle, whether or not it’s for him. Indeed the driver was such a powerful figure on the road. To load or not to load the vehicle with passengers was usually at his own discretion.
Somewhat reluctantly, he obliged and reduced the volume of the music but not so low.
"If my place were not too far, I would have taken motorbike home," a passenger said.
"Tweaaa….okada, that one…I'll never sit on it." They ride so recklessly and carelessly that you can't really guarantee your safety,” another male passenger said.
"Perfect, you're right. They ride from any direction. They don't observe any road regulation at all. If you want to cross the road and you don't look from all the directions as carefully as possible, I bet you'll be knocked down, killed!" a passenger elaborated.
"I think they should be banned," a young woman said.
"Save your breath, my sister. We're in Ghana. The politicians are the ones who have allowed it," he continued, "there was initial attempt by the police to ban them but our politicians say it should be allowed. We can't blame them. We give them the power to exercise over us. They are always in police escort so they feel what we the ordinary people feel." Mensah recalled.
"Yes…you spoke the truth, boss. They aren't thinking about our welfare. They only think about themselves. They drive the big and expensive cars. That's all!" said a passenger.
"We're voting every four years but we aren't seeing any development. No improvement in our livelihood. Look at this road…it was 'constructed' less than four years ago. That was in the run up to the elections. But look at it now…just look at it. Politicians have taken we the electorates for granted yet we continue to transfer our power to them," Mensah said worriedly.
This debate was becoming a big one for the passengers. Everyone has something to say. The road was clear now. The vehicle was moving faster now. Everyone was silent for some were actually sleeping except that two passengers were arguing not so loudly over the window near them. The one directly by the window attempted to close it because the wind was gushing in with so much force than she could withstand. But the man next to her appeared to be enjoying the cold wind for which reason he wanted the window remained opened.
"Madam, closed it half-way," a passenger suggested.
This fight continued. The driver applied a sudden brake and everyone got scared as though something went wrong. Not that a passenger wanted to alight. They were few metres away from a junction well noted for hold-up. There were junkies usually at this junction, not necessarily directing traffic but just begging for coins from drivers. This act obstructed movement of vehicles at that junction.
"See those junkies over there! They would not allow these vehicles to move," said a passenger.
"Whether those junkies are there or not, there is always traffic here," a passenger observed.
"Driver, I'll alight at the junction," the female passenger by the 'troubled window' said.
The man fighting her over the closure of the window was happy and laughing now in his mind. Very soon he would also alight anyway. But he would enjoy some fresh air before that.
A passenger opened his mouth so wide and yawned so loudly that everyone shouted at him.
"Eeiii…why? You haven't eaten the whole day?" someone asked him.
"He must have been too tired!"
"As if you know…I'm damn tired."
Mensah was nodding his head to the highlife music blurring from the speakers under the car seat. After a few stops, he alighted carrying his bag over his shoulder. He stretched out his limbs before heading home.
Stand by for the next episode…