Monday, November 9, 2009
Taxi slogans in Accra
Returning to a theme which permeates these blogs, I saw a taxi in Accra with Side Issues in flashy letters on its back windscreen. This form of advertising is a rudimentary form of Facebook. The rear screen in a car is small so the advert has to encapsulate a lot in a few letters. If you remember I got to wondering what makes a driver decide to choose a particular phrase. I think my partner suggested that these must have been the only individual letters left in the â€˜binâ€™ at whatever wholesale depot was selling them (bright orange, fluorescent in this case). So the driver had to make up the sign he wanted to display on his cab from a bunch of leftovers. Think Scrabble and anagrams. Most drivers seem to buy ready made up slogan such as Judgment Day, Gethsemane , God is Good. There are very few which, even at a stretch of the imagination, might be construed as secular.
Side Issues is one of these. Or is it? What has persuaded the driver to make up this phrase? Does it mean that he is willing to pick and drop customers but, en route, take you round the houses as you knock a few extra minor â€˜must dosâ€™ off your list? Or does it mean that he actually believes in God but he has a few reservations which he is parking for the moment? Was he alluding not to his own but to Jesusâ€™ side issues? For example, persuading His disciples that Mary should always sit at His right hand at the table or that poor Judas was in a no-win situation since he had no choice but to play out the drama which hastened His death by kissing Him in the garden.
In other words there is something in the phrase side issues which puzzles the more you think about it. It is either redolent with meaning, as suggested above, or it is offhand and dismissive, almost saying, I could advertise something really significant but am not bothering.
Watching it weave its way through the traffic (taxi drivers here often drive just as you or I might make our way along a crowded platform in the Underground, dodging left and right, accelerating and braking, expecting everyone to telepathies with the sudden switches, I suddenly realised that the driver was actually stating a fact. For him, everything on the road, including me, was a side issue. The only issue that mattered was his fearless path through the groaning rush hour traffic.