A piece of my mind: GH trotro, my favourite hangout! Pt. 1

People think ‘trotro’ is the cheapest means of transport in Ghana but it is one of my favourite hangouts. Strange huh? It is only in ‘trotro’ that you hear people who are totally ignorant ‘polluting’ others with wrong information and arguing confidently. I sit back, laugh and shake my head while this goes on.

I have enjoyed the drama in ‘trotro’ for a very long time and I just can’t stop picking ‘trotro’ even now that I have my own car, thanks to my dad. I can’t imagine myself missing all the fun in trotro, especially a day after fuel price increment. Passengers fighting drivers and their mates over increased fares and all that, how can I miss all that?
Barima Sydney’s ‘scent no oo, scent no’ song helped to kill the usual bad odour on trotro drivers’ mates (conductors). But I think we need another artist to do another song about the bad odour on most drivers’ mates.Ei! If you are unfortunate to get the seat beside the driver’s mate on a trotro, then sorry. Your neck will keep turning from left to right until you alight. The funny part is the mates always call more passengers even when the vehicles are moving so their side of the window is always open and you know how air doesn’t ask permission to enter any open place. So you just have to endure the odour.
But bad odour is not just on the driver’s mates. Some bad odour on some very well-dressed passengers is sometimes a torment I have to endure. Worst of all is when you sit on the ‘trotro’ with market women and their wares. Hmmm! The smell of a mixture of all kinds, shapes and shades of fish, vegetables and others make you want to vomit sometimes. But what can I do, it is my favourite hangout so I just have to take it all in. The good, the bad and the ugly.
It very interesting watching passengers demand their change so aggressively on a trotro, no matter how small the amount is. The reason is, they claim most mates never pardon passengers when they don’t have enough to pay the full lorry fare. It gets more interesting when passengers fight with drivers mates whenever there is increment in fuel prices. The thing is when there is, for instance, 20% increase in a lorry fare of say 80Gp, the trotro drivers interpret that to mean 20Gp increase so they start charging GHC1. Meanwhile 20% increase on 80Gp should take the price to 96Gp. This mathematical confusion is a major source of battles over coins on trotro, and that makes it an interesting place to hangout.
Trotro bribe

But do you know people even pay bribes to get ahead of a trotro queue? On this faithful day, I got to Nkrumah Circle after work to pick ‘trotro’ back to Madina where I live. I got to the station only to meet this long queue, I had no option than to join.

Before I continue, I don’t know about you but I really respect people who come to the bus stations and form queues when there are no buses. It might be different in other schools but here at the University of Ghana (where people are expected to know better), not a day have I seen students form a queue to wait for shuttles or buses. You should see how City Campus students struggle for spaces in buses after lectures… Surprised? Well I’m not, because in our part of the world people who are expected to know better rather do things that are least expected of them.
As I was saying, I was about the fiftieth person in the queue. After about twenty minutes of standing in the queue, I saw two buses coming but unfortunately, before it could get to my turn, the buses were already full. Now I was the fourth person and I was a bit relieved because I knew my seat in the next bus was assured.  Not long after, another bus arrived and guess the surprise…before I had my way into the bus, it was almost full. So as I sat quietly in the moving vehicle, I asked myself, where did all those people come from? Because I saw the bus with just the driver and the mate (conductor) when it came. Then suddenly one woman sitting beside me started making some comments in a form of innuendo about how some people would come and not join queue but rather pay bribe to some station masters and mates to secure seats for them on buses.
Then I thought bribery in ‘trotro’, really?! Has the bribery and corruption disease in the country gone this viral, or I’m just out of date? Well…I’m not ready to go into the whole hard corruption topic now. As I was saying, then other passengers who had joined the bus through the queue started adding to what the woman was saying. One man said ‘why don’t you pick taxis if you are rich enough to pay bribe just to get seats on trotro’? You should have seen the faces of the guilty ones, with some pretending to be making phone calls, others looking strictly outside the windows and others sat quietly in the buses with their shameful faces.

One thing about ‘trotro’ mates, they never shout for passengers until I get a phone call. Ah! I get so angry when the person on the other side hears ‘Kanesh’, Kanesh, Kanesh (Kaneshie) or ‘Sirk, ‘Sirk’, ‘Sirk’ (Circle) and asks ‘Are you in a ‘trotro’? ahyawa!
They are mostly unable to mention the names of certain bus stops.  I’ve been using the Circle – Madina buses for some time now and I’ve noticed that most of the conductors have different ways of pronouncing the name of this particular bus stop called ‘Shangri- La’. Then one day, I met this old school mate who was also going to Madina. I told him about this and we decided to pay attention to how this conductor was going to pronounce ‘Shangri-La’. After we passed the Airport bus stop, all we heard was ‘Shangeria wo mu?’ (The mate’s way of asking if anyone wanted to alight at ‘Shangri-La). Then I quickly asked, mate, what did you just say? What did you hear? He replied. Then everyone on the bus started laughing. Before we could finish and correct him, he had already done it again by saying ‘spinner’ wo mu? Meaning does anybody want to alight at Spanner?
It’s funny how some people lie on phone on trotro. I have done it before and trust me the way the other passengers turned to look at me I wished I could vanish from the bus at that moment. And it looks like the mates get more energy to shout for more passengers when they realise that a passenger is talking on the phone.

Speaking of phone calls, it is amazing how some people practically scream when they make calls during a trotro ride. Some particular people who speak one of the most aggressive Ghanaian dialects are notorious for screaming on top of their voice while on the phone on a trotro. Why, are the people on the other side usually partially deaf or what? Complete disregard for simple courtesy for boys and girls and telephone manners. Sometimes I feel like taking the phone from such people and tossing it off the moving trotro. But it is all part of the fun and one of the reasons trotro is my favourite hangout.

And have you listened to the news on trotro before? Catch a feeling of that in the second part of this piece.

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