Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Red Light, Green Light, No Light...GO! - São Paulo


I am from Connecticut. Okay, so I was born in NYC and grew up until age 8 in suburban New York, but the fact of the matter is that I learned my driving skills in Connecticut. The nice part. The part where you get to a four-way stop sign and you wave each other to go first. You all four sit there and wave at each other for 15 seconds before you all start at once, then stop and wave at each other again. This can go on for hours. It is why nothing actually gets done in Connecticut. We are all sitting at four-way stops. Think of how the economy would burst ahead if we could put in rotaries.

For six years in the early 2000s, I lived in Miami. Now Miami is punk (prounounced "punky" in Portuguese) at four way intersections. You just assume no one will let you go so you go first. During the several hurricane powerouts that we had during the time I lived there, it was a complete free-for-all. So much for the Florida law that says in case of a power out of the stoplights, it is a four-way stop. No, it was a four way GO! Normally gridlock would ensue quickly.

São Paulo channels more Miami than Connecticut (shocking, right?). Yesterday we had a huge thunderstorm and pouring rain. I knew traffic would be crazy and left early with the kids for school. All of the stoplights were working except for one minor set -- meaning the cross traffic is virtually non-existent at that intersection. We got by with no problems.

On the way back from dropping the kids, I went a different route. Mostly okay except for one very busy intersection with a broken stoplight, which was unmonitored by the traffic cops. In fact, 96 stoplights were out around the city from the storm (it really doesn't matter if they are flashing yellow or just out--it means the same thing to the lunatics here--go faster!). 

So after waiting a while for my turn, I see how this is going to work. Basically one direction has right of way until the cross traffic gets fed up and all jumps into the intersection at the same time. Hopefully led by a large bus to protect your sides. When it was my turn, I cautiously stuck my nose in, some cars stopped, others skidded almost into their neighbor's front grill, and I was almost across when a Toyota Hilux (the US 4runner) barreled through at around 40 mph and just narrowly missed my front end. And beeped at me! Because clearly my cautious approach was ridiculous! Dangerous! 

Just another day living in traffic paradise.

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