On my usual route home from work, I sat in one of our local public taxi's which most young people my age have nicknamed trotro; a nick name culled for these ancient Mercedes Benz buses which have been converted from delivery vans to delivering humans to their various destinations.
This particular trotro ( troskie if you like) which I jumped into at the bus stop behind the Afua Sutherland Children's park, along with a healthy handful of passengers who were no doubt in a hurry to get to their various destinations, was rather unusual.
The first thing which struck me was the mate; now normally the mates were sprite young fellows who clung to the doors of the troskies like nimble monkeys, hollering out to potential passengers at bus stops about their destinations whilst expertly clutching a handful of bills between the knuckles of their fingers.
This mate however, was a middle aged Baba, complete in smock and cap, looking like he would roll out his mat and kneel down to attend to a call to prayer at any instant.
Next I noticed the 17' flat screen TV perched over head, hooked up to two loud speakers...LED or LCD, I had no clue, but I was excited! Finally! My first film in a troskie! Then as I slid into my seat beside a well dressed corporate worker wearing a curly weave, carefully making sure my clothes didn't get caught in any snags, I finally noticed the driver. The driver who looked like the mate...sprite, slightly unkempt and with sharp eyes adept at spotting potential passengers from a mile away like a bird of pray.
At this point I was even more excited, because I could smell drama! There was either going to be a quarrel of some sort once our journey began or SOMETHING!
My crew of misfits did not fail to disappoint; for as I opened my purse and began to rustle about for coins to pay my fare, I casually asked in Twi, the common local dialect
'How much to Tetteh Quarshie?'
Baba the mate gave me a long blank stare before doing the very Ghanaian thing of answering a question with a question
'How much do u often pay?'
At that very moment my fingers had found a 10 Pesewa coin, and I froze....what????
The MATE was asking ME how much I often paid? Was he mad? Was he sure he was a proper mate and not the Imam at a local mosque some where in Adabraka taking a day off his statutory occupation?
Just right then, a naughty voice whispered in my head
'Say you pay 10 Pesewas'
I couldn't help but giggle, musing to myself that if I was a wicked woman, I would definitely say so n cheat this Baba or mate or whatever he purported to be of a solid 50 pesewas. It wasn't much money, nor was it because I didn't have the money, but the temptation was so impossibly irresistible, my lips parted and I started to form the words ...when suddenly a young man who had jumped into the row of seats in front of me just moments after i had sat, announced in Twi, as the troskie jerked into motion with a shrill screech from the clutch as the driver changed the gears.
''Its 60 pesewas. Tetteh-Quarshie is 60 pesewas''
At that point I grinned from ear to ear although I was disappointed at being unable to play devil's advocate, and found a 50 pesewa coin and handed it over to the Baba the mate.
Barely one second went by when a young girl in the front row me quipped
'How much to get down at 37 hospital?'
To which the Baba replied
My jaw sagged in astonishment; this passenger was being charged more than I was for a destination which was a total of about 6 bus stops before my stop.
The same smart-alec passenger who insisted my fare was 60 pesewas, came to Baba's rescue once again, and argued
'No its not! Its 70p, everyone pays 70p for 37'
As the passenger passed her GHC1 note from hand to hand till it reached Baba the mate, I held my breath, waiting for someone, or more likely the self appointed public transport minister to call me out on that 60 pesewas.....nothing happened. Three stops later, nothing had happened still...no one seemed to notice or care, or perhaps they were so excited by their own good fortune they didn't want to spoil it.
Well then, I thought to myself, no point playing the saint. So onward to my stop at spanner bus stop at 60 pesewas, best troskie ride ever!! Hurray!