Sunday, July 19, 2009

Trotro Dynamics

A great part of the “Ghanaian hustle” is how to move from one place to another. I stand to be corrected but my guess is it’s the greatest hustle of all, and especially so if you have to move by commercial transport. And by commercial I reserve the right to exclude taxis; they are considered expensive luxuries. The minivan and benz 207, affectionately known in Ghana as trotro, is a more conspicuous representation of this transport hustle. It’s a cheaper alternative and will take you close to where you want to go most of the time, but you are guaranteed much discomfort coupled with arguments and, if you are lucky, some hilarious moments. But before I get into the details of the experience let me brief you on the trotro dynamics.

First of all there’s the vehicle (usually in a deplorable condition) manned by two males: the driver and his mate. The driver’s job is obvious except for conditions where his fists apply. The driver’s mate sits closest to the door so he can call out the destination of the trotro and usher customers in and, of course take their money. Warning: the mate has had no training whatsoever in customer service and should therefore be expected to be obnoxious at any given time. Trotros are registered to particular stations and destinations, so depending on where you want to go, you may want to pick the one that follows your route. Hailing one is very easy because they typically draw your attention to them by calling out.During rush hours it’s a little different – the hustle, struggle, dirt and sweat begins.

For me, rush hour is the most exciting and self-satisfying time to pick the trotro. There’s always a massive crowd gathered at every bus stop, waiting, or should I say hoping to catch the next trotro either to work, school or home. This is where wits will have to play exceptionally well because trust me, everyone’s on edge and those with spider senses are more alert than ever. There are those that come to steal and pick pockets, so care is vital. People in the crowd can spot trotros from afar and some even run to meet it. When it gets closer, the bus stop turns into a battlefield. On this battlefield there are no rules except push, struggle ‘elbow’ and sometimes ,bite your competitor till you get a seat. You hear ‘AGYEI!’ ‘KWASIA!’ ‘NA BRA AD3N?!!’, and what not. If you happen to meet a long time archenemy at the bus stop, you may want to make good use of the opportunity. Just make sure he/she doesn’t eventually get in with you. Rush hour struggles hardly end up in street brawls. The exchanges usually happen after everyone’s settled and it usually goes on and on until someone says something politically incorrect on the radio, then there’s a change of subject.

A trotro ride is quite cumbersome and long because the driver stops at almost every bus stop to either drop off or pick up a passenger. One thing that is constant is the exasperating voice of the mate, shouting and soliciting passengers. Besides the mentally handicapped you can find almost every type of Ghanaian in the trotro: the workers, students, market women, the sick, pick-pockets, traditionalists, hawkers, sheep, goats, chicken (I once had to place someone’s chicken on my lap). So you can imagine ;conversation, if any, is diverse with a bleet and ‘cluck cluck’ where necessary. There’s also the regular mate-passenger or passenger-passenger quarrel or fight, an overheated engine, a tyre burst, ‘one-gallon’ situation, and police encounters at which point you’ll have to get off and find another vehicle. Most of these incidents are circumstantial so you might be fortunate not to chance upon any when you’re late for work or an appointment.

Experience will tell you that there are latent rules to follow when taking the trotro:

- Never consider it if your life or job is on the line. You will most likely lose both.

- Never board a trotro if you’re in anything white.

- Watch your head, and any other body part.

- Beware of pick-pockets, and lately, beware of everyone else.

- Insist on your change, IMMEDIATELY!

- Don’t upset the driver. Your life is in his inexperienced, careless hands.

- In a trotro, size matters. Pick your fights carefully.

- Expect anything.

Besides all the hustle and bustle, taking the trotro is an exciting way to be Ghanaian or experience Ghana if you’re a foreigner. It’s also a great avenue to compare and contrast different issues with people from diverse backgrounds. I can even go as far as to say that it’s possible to have market research done in trotros and for the romantics, maybe find a partner. To say the very least, it’s inexpensive and remember, five pesewas may not matter to you now but in a trotro it makes all the difference in the world.


This article was written by Lifestylz GH Staff Writer Kobe Asiedu

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JP said...

LOL!!!! :-) Hilarious article Kobe! :-) Reminds me of all the calls i am used to hearing while in GH... 'SPINTEX, CIRCLE, KANESHIE...' LOL!!! :-) These are some of the ways we make GH our own... and an experience worth remembering or having! Especially when one falls or trips when getting off the trotro... To the GA exclamation of... 'OHH SORRRRRR... SORMIA'... LOL!!!! :-) Nice...

Nii said...

great article.. Made me smile and smile and smile again.. I agree, if we don't celebrate these Original ghanaian moments, who will? :)

JP said...

We have to... its what makes us Ghanaian/African!!!!! :-) Memories... memories... Anyone have a trotro moment they want to share with LSG...?!?!?? LOL!!! :-)

Flossy said...

CHALE! A trotro journey usually makes tales to be told! I have seen a woman trotro mate before! AMUSING!!!

Pipedreams said...

Excellent piece. To Flossy, I'll say there are few female trotro mates. At least one of them plies the Spintex Road route.