Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Gentlemen (and one lady), start your engines! - São Paulo

Largo da Batata - 7:30 am Tuesday morning

This photo shows a moment of my morning commute to the kids' school. My husband is normally the taker-of-kids (no yellow bus here as you'll recall from an earlier post) but since breaking his arm by crashing into a concrete wall playing soccer (looooonnnnggg story), I am the driver.  I do not love the morning commute. Fortunately 7:30 am is earlier than most people go to work--most people start their jobs at 9 or 9:30 am (before you make any wise cracks about lazy Brazilians, realize they stay until 7:30 or 8 pm). Here I am in the Largo da Batata - which translates roughly as Potato Square - so named from its history as a gathering spot for potato sellers.

The motorcycle line-up is about the same at every stoplight. A line of motorcycles jostles for space as close as they can get to the pedestrian walkway. They seem to enjoy threatening the people running for their lives (motoboys, or motorcycle delivery guys, are not known to honor the walkway). Motoboys are all pretty much dressed this way in dark clothes, in spite of recent attempts to jazz up their required clothing to make them more visible. You can see one of the motoboys is checking out the lady on her moped second from left. There are not many women on motorcycles (except as garoupas, see earlier post) and those you see are generally on smaller moped.

By law motorcycles are allowed to pass in the space between cars when they are stopped. I actually reached this light before all of the others did, but they all zoomed up between me and the next car and spread out on the front line. They get really annoyed if you don't leave space between your car and the next one so that they can squeeze through. Several friends have had their side view mirrors kicked off when there wasn't enough space. One fat motoboy ripped off the side view mirror of my husband's Volvo when the motoboy miscalculated the space his rather large self would need to get through. It was unintentional but the result was the same. A Van Gogh Volvo. 

Some of you know my favorite motoboy story. I have a love/hate relationship with motoboys, and a semi-real obsession with their crazy lifestyle. One day as I was heading down this same road, without the kids, a line of motoboys was passing on my right and one of them hit the side view mirror and bent it backwards. Annoying but not broken. The next motoboy in the line-up pulled up next to me (we were at this point driving around 20 miles per hour), paused, looked in the passenger window and pointed to the mirror then himself. I nodded at him and the motoboy proceeded to bend my mirror back into place while driving with one hand. At the next stoplight he was stopped in front of me, and he flipped up his face shield and smiled and winked at me when I gave him the thumbs-up. A favorite São Paulo moment.

Motoboys are not supposed to pass in between lanes when cars are moving. This has stopped no motoboy ever. It is incredibly dangerous.  Two to three motoboys die per day on the streets of São Paulo--generally because they drive fast and take chances. I have twice almost knocked motoboys down as I make a left turn--even when signaling your turn, these guys will try to pass you. And if you ever do knock one down, you're going to want to seek police help quickly. Where one motoboy goes down, others will come to circle around like flies. They can apparently become quite aggressive to the car driver, even if it was not the driver's fault. Hasn't happened to me. Only smiles and winks so far...

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