If you are from Africa, Ghana to be precise and a patron of public transport, then I’m pretty sure you have your own memories both pleasant and not, of bus conductors aka ‘mates.’ Some of them are actually, others very rude and others just annoying- as if sent by the devil to tempt you and see if you will fall especially when you have had a very effective quiet time some few minutes before.
I’ve considered myself ‘favored’ more than once as a trotro mate offered me his seat during those days when I’m unfortunately running late. But a minute later, I reconsider this ‘favour’ when my nose is subjected to some unwholesome smell from his T-shirt and there is nowhere to turn your head to save yourself the torture. But I guess, every rose comes with thorns, right?
It seems people are set in their minds about the guys who find themselves on the mate’s seat that they don’t consider how they relate to them. When I look at them, most of them are about my age and sometimes even younger than I am. I hear stories of rich entrepreneurs who started off like this: street hawkers and trotro mates and can’t help but think: is he going to be the next business mogul? Although the chances that we would recognize each other years later when he has become somebody big are pretty slim, I always remind myself not to talk to them anyhow no matter how ‘deserving’ they can be of a tongue lash and just play civil.
It’s funny how they sometimes try to flirt and for a moment, you realize that if they were to have a good bath and wear decent clothes, they could actually be fine gentlemen. I try not to get drawn to anger when a mate gives me a cheeky answer or plays rude. He must have had a bad day, I tell myself and move on.
Some of them try to play smart and hold on to your change hoping that you’d forget and get down. When you start requesting for it, they try to put up an attitude meanwhile they call for the fare even before your butt hit the seat. Each day has its incident; certain ones would feature in almost everyone’s trotro diaries to laugh about.
I’m sure one difficult time for all trotro mates is when there is an increment in fuel prices and they also have to adjust their fares. Every trip is filled with arguments with passengers about the ‘unfair’ increases which sometimes turn ugly. Some passengers especially the elderly decide how much to pay and they rain insults on these poor mates knowing that talking back to them would earn disapproving comments from fellow comments. But some of these guys ‘leave their eyes somewhere’ and face them word for word. So much drama which would wake you up to full alert in case you were feeling sleepy.
Working with people isn’t easy; even those of us in offices with others who are educated know how stressful it can be sometimes. So you can imagine having a random mix of educated and uneducated, civilized and uncouth people all on one ride. I hope the drivers and mates don’t develop blood pressure because of their jobs.
If you are a regular patron of public transport, take your time before engaging a trotro mate in a verbal showdown. He could tell you something you would never forget or you might end up saying something you would regret. Let it go when you can and if you have to make your point, weigh your words well. Be firm but be classy about it.
I hope my next trotro mate doesn’t make me tempt me not to take the advice I’ve just given you. Stay safe, ayt?
© Josephine Amoako 2017
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