“Huge Offense!”

To say I am leery of conflict would be an understatement on scale with calling a blue whale just a big fish. I shudder at the thought of confronting people, choosing instead to live the life of a habitual passive aggressive, quietly hashing out one-sided arguments in my mind for grievances big and small. But I’ve found this tendency slowly slipping away the longer I stay in Ghana, where timidity gets you trampled on, sometimes literally.

One of the catalysts behind my callousing towards confrontation is driving. In the land of tro-tros and taxis, moving like a slogan-clad school of tuna, traffic in Ghana is interesting to say the least, stroke-inducing at its worst. But more than the anticipation of an impending impact, the ever-present police force a tough upper lip. Give me your license. Where is your safety triangle? Fire extinguisher? First aid kit? Reflective stickers? Mother’s maiden name? Middle school GPA? Favorite color? The questions and demands would be comical if they weren’t so frustrating and frequent. And they always end with the same thing; “This is a HUGE OFFENSE!” Then the officer joins your car and you drive slowly towards the police station while he builds up the immensity of your false infractions. Luckily for you his merciful character wins out and he offers you an escape. “You don’t want to go to court do you? So what can we do?” This is perhaps the only part that is fun in the most infinitesimal, most perverse, sense of the word. Maybe it’s my shopping addiction, my love of the bargain. Maybe it’s the fun that ensues when a group of Obrunis are together and you compare how much you got off with for your own huge offense. But the bartering for your freedom that occurs on your way to impending doom is somewhat cathartic.

Thursday’s encounter with the benevolent badge was no different. I guess colors are different in Ghana, or maybe it was a language thing, but the red light I blew through looked an awful lot like green to me. But you’ll be happy to know I purchased my freedom for 48 Ghana Cedis (about $25) and I got to keep my mangoes, which was my first counter to the officer’s bid for 400 Ghana Cedis. I thought two mangoes was a good counter, which if you’ve ever had a one I think you’d agree.