The light turns red
The man wearing twenty-seven hats and carrying thirteen more in his arms ambles between the bright yellow tro tro and the towering truck beside it. He navigates a path wide as a grocery aisle.
But there are no carts in these aisles
There are, however, motorbikes. They appear suddenly, snaking the aisles, with no notice. A minor occupational hazard.
His eyes scan left, right, left, right, forward. Watching for eye contact and a potential sale. He nimbly sidesteps – first, a helmetless chopper skirting the hallway between cars, second, a bike sporting a pair of snazzy helmeted dressers, resplendent in brightly colored African shirts, neatly tailored with an almost nonexistent collar. Almost.
He strolls, evenly spaced between his coworkers, most balancing wares on their heads, inexplicably. With zero danger of a single item falling. It just doesn’t happen.
On the streets of Accra, a stoplight is a place to shop, right.
Today, at this light, you’re in luck if you need
hats, socks, pillows, sunglasses (perched atop a plywood rack perched atop a sweaty brow), plantain chips, sets of knives, fresh bread, ground nuts, Fan Ice (of course), decals, toilet paper, soccer balls, tasers (the taser guy is our least favorite guy, especially when he reaches into your open window to demonstrate the power and handy usefulness of a handheld taser. Sorry dude, no sale. No, seriously NO SALE), cheap imitation Scrabble knockoffs (who knew that it would be hard to get Scrabble correct?), socks (just not quite right for a purchase, but the right set will come along), maps of Ghana, cheesy paintings (think 70s-style chevy vans), brightly colored African fabrics, booster cables, phone cards*
you can get them here. While stopped at the light.
It’s a pretty long light.
*This is not a comprehensive list.
You need a quick hand and a few Cedis ready. And if you see what you want, a nod, eye contact, window opens, money changes hands, and you’ve got just the perfect thing.
Today is not my day to buy a hat. But I know I’ll see him again.