Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Riding on the metro-oh-oh - São Paulo

One of the things I love most in São Paulo is the metro system. Yes, it's true. The metro system is a joy--on most days. On days of rains, days of "pane" (breakdowns) it is not fun. But most of the time, it is a delight. And what continues to surprise me is how few people in Classe A/B, as they put it here, ride it. In fact, when I told a Brazilian friend that I had taken it to the conference yesterday, she looked at me as if I were crazy and exclaimed "Aren't you afraid of being robbed?" 

I am afraid of very few things, actually, and being robbed on the metro is not one of them. I assume that it will happen to me one day in some city in some country of the world. I haven't seen the numbers for robbery on the metro here versus any other big city, but I would believe they are roughly the same. Pickpockets are a universal delight.

Yesterday the South Africa conference was being held at the Maksoud Plaza, a wacky hotel just off Avenida Paulista. For sure, it will be tomorrow's post. The place is stuck so firmly in the 1970s, I want to wear bell bottoms when I go there. The meeting started at 9 am--traffic at this hour to get near Avenida Paulista, a major thoroughfare, would not be fun.  So here is what I did.

I parked my car, for free, on a street four blocks away from Vila Madalena station. I admit I have an advantage with my car being bullet-proof. There is no way to steal it--I never think twice about leaving it parked on a street. I walked up a nice stairway, a little like this one below (actually this is the block before where I get the staircase).

Photo credit:
Three blocks later I arrive in front of the Vila Madalena station. It is always "movimentado" or full of people going in, leaving, catching a bus out front or waiting for friends. An escalator down and you are in the big open atrium. I flick my "bilhete unico" (unified ticket --bus, metro and train) card onto the reader and I'm through the gates. Another escalator down and I join the people waiting on the platform.

At 8 am on a weekday, things are busy but not crazy. One of the best things about the V. Mad station is that it is the end of the line. When the train comes in, you can usually find a seat pretty quickly, and there is no fight for space. Things fill up slightly at the next two stations (Sumare and Clinicas) but the big munch comes at Consolação which connects with the yellow line. The next station, MASP/Trianon, is mine and I have to ask pardon to get out, holding tight to my bag.

At MASP/Trianon, I am a little confused about where to exit and end up getting on the correct side of Avenida Paulista but farther from my destination. But it's only a three block walk on the other side and I get to walk down one of the most fun streets in Brazil. For people-watching, that is. The whole trip, from parking to arrival at the hotel, has taken me 30 minutes, and I've arrived stress-free. Cost of US$3.00 for metro back and forth. If I had parked at the hotel, the most obvious cost would have been the US$20 parking, not to mention gas, time and frustration.

Avenida Paulista. Photo credit:

Love the metro. Makes me sing that old Berlin song (no I had neither a whiskey nor a gun on my trip). Riding on the metro-oh-oh...


  1. With all due respect, I'm still trying to wrap my head around these two sentences: "I am afraid of very few things" and "my car being bullet-proof".

    I agree with everything else you said, by the way.

  2. Hahaha! yeah, it does seem rather contradictory. Let me try to explain. Because I drive a blindado ("protected" is really a better translation than "bulletproof"), I have minimized or taken away some of my fears. Like getting held up at a stop light with my kids in the back of the car. Like stopping at a red light at night. Like a sequestro relampego. Like having my car stolen when it is parked somewhere. Like getting lost in a sketchy area. Those fears are gone. The ones that remain have to do with lightning, thunder, flash floods, most horror films, furry spiders, cockroaches, the NY Yankees and any group of Gavioes do Fiel. Maybe I had better re-write the "few" fears part. :)

    Glad to see you back, Andrew!

  3. Glad to be back!

    I see what you're saying but I have a different take on it. I've always driven non-bulletproof cars (or "unprotected", because nothing is really bulletproof - the other guy just needs a bigger gun but don't get me started on the fact that it's just an "arms race" with the criminals). Anyway, I think I would feel less safe in a "blindado", like there's a big flashing arrow pointing at me saying, "Hey, I've got money, I'm a good target". Yes, it means I avoid stopping at red lights at night (no, I don't run them, I just slow down well in advance - you know, the last man who robbed a vehicle in movement was Ronnie Biggs) but I'm not convinced the alternative is any better.

  4. Yes, I was opposed to blindado for a long time. Then two friends got robbed at traffic lights with kids in the car. I said, "blindar" that puppy. My car is level handgun can pierce it unless shot 6 times in exactly the same place. I don't plan to be standing still for that. If the guy is carrying a rocket launcher, he can have my car. Not my kids. There is no good alternative. I've just found the one that works for me, I'm not trying to sell anyone else on it.

  5. Not even a rocket launcher, unless they changed the rules, civilians aren't allowed any bulletproofing capable of stopping a standard issue Army assault rifle. Not even armored trucks making money deliveries. Probably comes from the military not wanting "subversive" guerillas stealing them during the dictatorship...

    Anyway, we all have to make our own decisions about that sort of thing.