Some Ghanaians who live abroad but are considering moving back to Ghana mention the heavy traffic in Accra as one of the things they are not looking forward to living with. To this, I usually offer my very unhelpful two cents which is that I don't really deal much with traffic here. I leave home for work before the traffic builds and head back during the late hours when it is so easy for me to whizz home, one would think I owned the streets. Maybe it is because of this that I actually enjoy seeing the sellers on the streets; Because I don't see them during the week, on the few times when I see them during the weekend, I initiate conversation with them, ask their names, buy stuff from them and romanticize the whole experience. So far, that works for me, and even when the tro-tro drivers cut in front of me from nowhere, I just patiently wait and shake my head, not sweating the small stuff. I used to get so disorientated when as a new driver people would honk at me within moments of the light turning green. Now, four months on, I've joined in the honking to encourage drivers in front of me to move whenever traffic lights turns green, and I do it with a devilish grin and such relish! Hey, they say if you can't beat them, join them. I am settling in well. So all is dandy, right? Wrong!
There is one group of street-people in Accra that I would love to see thrown off the streets - the boys who wipe the windscreens! And even though I only have to suffer them a few times during the weekend, our encounters often leave me fuming and distraught. These boys usually approach your car when you've stopped either because of traffic or red light. Then they proceed to wipe the windscreen of your car with some funny contraption with a foam attached which they first dip into some bucket of soapy water before beginning the wipe job. On a few occasions, I've been able to stop them before they've begun wiping, but most of the time, they spring up on you, and don't bother to ask if you need the service before they begin cleaning so they're halfway into the cleaning job before you are able to say anything. Sometimes even my protests fail to stop them. I can't begin to tell you how deep under my skin these boys are able to get.
There have been days when I've felt so exasperated at the hand-wringing futility of my attempts to stop them that by the time I am once more on my way I who might have approached them feeling calm, happy even, am bereft of all humor. What really irks me is that once they've completed the job which you did not order, they ask you for coins. The way I see it, since I didn't employ them to work, I shouldn't have to pay them so I don't ever give them money. In any case, they're not really offering that much value. As I write, my car is very dirty because I haven't found time to go to the washing bay, wash it myself, or get someone to do it. Now if these boys in traffic were actually offering something of a decent/thorough cleaning job, I'd consider paying them. Instead of cleaning only my windscreen, if they also wiped down the body of the car, so that I could leave with a clean car, not just a dirty car with clean windscreens, maybe I would begin to appreciate their efforts. There are two things I don't like about these boys. One is the fact that they don't ask drivers if they should clean before they do, but just shove it down our throats. Second, is that they think they can just come and do something as little as wiping a windscreen and get paid for it.
There is also another group of young boys who try to make money by doing very little work. I speak of the boys who start filling pot-holes in streets that are ridden with potholes and then expect that because they've filled two out of a hundred potholes on that street, every driver passing at that time owes them money. I don't mind these people either; If they're really serious about working for money, they can find other means of employment.
I mention these two groups of people because they point to one phenomenon- Our young boys trying to make a quick buck and feeling entitled to your money because they've offered you something with no thought on how valuable their "service" really is to you. Seeing this attitude in boys who are not even fifteen years old is really bothersome.
I'll end with two questions. Do these people bother anyone else? And secondly, are some people grateful to have the boys cleaning their windscreens in traffic or filling potholes? If most people like having them there, then maybe I just need to take a chill pill, but if they're just as annoying to others as they are to me, we should take them out!
Esi Cleland is a copywriter at Publicis Ghana. To read more of her articles, visit http://www.maameous.com
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