I spent about 10 days in the United States over the holidays. One day, I took a bus through Columbia Heights to downtown DC. Bus trips in Ghana tend to be eventful, and the less you pay for your ticket, the more eventful they will be. But I used to take the bus regularly in DC, so I was expecting a quiet trip.
It was not to be. A lady in leopard tights and a shiny black purse boarded the bus without paying and took the seat next to me. Passengers sometimes board, sit down, find their metro cards, and then pay, but after a couple of stops it became apparent she had no intention of paying. The driver quietly told her she needed to pay before he could continue. The woman responded with an impressive string of profanity. I waited for the tongue-clicks, exclamations, and chiding that she would be sure to receive from the rest of the passengers.
I looked back and not a single passenger was even looking at the woman, although they all must have been aware of the situation. I wondered if I should say something. After a moment's thought, I decided not to. When I first arrived in Ghana, I stayed out of public altercations, as I knew that I did not have the cultural context to react appropriately. I realized that my situation, in my home country, in a city I knew well, was now analogous. The bus driver had likely been trained in how to handle non-paying customers.
Sure enough, after blowing off a little more steam, the woman got off the bus, although she continued to verbally abuse the side view mirror after the bus doors had closed behind her.
I have worked in economic policy and research in Washington, D.C. and Ghana. My husband and I recently moved to Guyana, where I am working for the Ministry of Finance. I like riding motorcycle, outdoor sports, foreign currencies, capybaras, and having opinions.