“Last Stop”, I shouted at the approaching taxi. Yes that was how to get a loading taxi in Dansoman if you were not at the taxi rank. You had to shout or else the taxi driver would assume that you were “chartering”-when you want the taxi all to yourself and are willing to pay a much higher fare.
Sometimes, aside shouting, you had to indicate with your hand where you’re going. Every major city center comes along with its own sign language depending on where you are boarding from. The sign language usually points in the direction of the place you’re going to or a major landmark such as a “Roundabout or Circle” in which case the motion of the hand was circular.
So I shouted and pointed to Last Stop. The driver screeched to a halt. That loud screech, should have been the first red flag. Anyway, I was in a hurry or rather chose to ignore so I sat at the front seat. Usually I would have sat at the back had it been an Uber or a chartered taxi. But for a loading taxi or trotro, the best spot is in front. Trust me.
A Temporal Solution
I got aboard and the driver sped off just as fast as he had stopped. Speeding was an understatement. It was like being in a movie where the bad guys were on the run from the police. My heart was racing fast, if not faster. I considered putting on the seatbelt but on second thought I decided not to.
Let me explain. Finding a clean passenger side seat belt in a Ghanaian taxi is as rare as….rare. It is almost impossible. They are usually so dusty that by the time you get off the taxi the seat belt is still etched onto your clothes and you end up wearing a seat belt all day – literally.
So I held on to the grab holder (that thing your mother holds and shouts “Jesus!” when a car is over-speeding). It’s also that that thing your boys boys hold on to when you suddenly step on the accelerator and he gets startled and says “Oh sh*t. Yeah that’s a grab holder, not a “Jesus holder” or “’the other one’ holder”).
Anyway, so he was flying over speed ramps and through potholes like nobody’s business. I was so shocked I couldn’t speak. I had to hold on to the dashboard because I felt I would fly out the window. Before grabbing the holder along the 12 minute journey, he screeched to another stop to pick a passenger.
Another Taxi Occupant
I turned to look at him and this guy was as cool as a cucumber; obviously not bothered by how perturbed I was. As if over speeding like that wasn’t enough this guy was loudly popping gum like a grinding mill. This guy was upsetting me. Seriously!
Yet another passenger got on board at the Dansoman market. She had obviously gone shopping because she had about 3 or 4 shopping bags. She sat in the taxi first before picking up her stuff. The driver continued to pop his gum very loudly. Startled, the new passenger turned around quickly and screamed “Driver!” He responded very calmly “Yes Madam”, as if to ask “How may I help you?”
The lady rested her case and just settled at the back seat. I looked at her through the rear view mirror and said mentally “Welcome aboard”. Before I could finish my silent welcome address, the driver sped off again. The lady screamed as we flew over speed ramps and dashed through potholes. I made it my duty to announce to the driver each time we approached a speed ramp or a pothole. Needless to say, that made no difference at all.
Finally we got to our destination; I jumped out of the car as fast as I could and thanked God for my life. Even though the 12 minute journey had been done in 5 minutes; those were the longest 5 minutes in my life. I took a good look at the driver’s face; there was no way I was going to risk my life getting aboard this reckless taxi driver’s car again.
Just in case, you meet a loud popping gum chewing taxi driver be warned, it could be him.