Friday, March 21, 2014

Pro-Life - São Paulo

These dudes would have had to RUN here in São Paulo

So this morning I was walking along on my way home from volunteering at the kids' school, thinking about today's post. I had one more day of Ilha Bela in me, but now I'm afraid something happened that has pushed me to rant. So anyone who is not in the mood for rant, or is Brazilian and defensive, or is the driver of a black Mitsubishi SUV, might want to skip the next part. Or the latter can follow along so you will know that I am hunting you. 

Many times before in the blog I have talked about how Brazilians, in general the nicest people in the world, turn into complete jerks behind a steering wheel. Not all of them, but many of them. I am continually shocked at how rude they are, and completely selfish and plain old DANGEROUS. Yes, I am talking about São Paulo drivers, the paulistanos, who are always in a hurry, always crabby about traffic and always predictably nightmares.

Some of the worst driving is around schools. Most parents drop their kids at their private schools in the morning. While there is bussing available, it costs upwards of US$300/month per child and if you've seen some of these vans scream around corners on two wheels, you might think twice about sending your kids. At the kids' private school, the worst time is the drop-off when parents are late, crabby from having a traffic mess on the way there, and they drive worse than 15-year-olds (in fact, I would like to apologize for that remark to pre-teens everywhere). 

I have nearly been run down in the pedestrian walkway by parents zooming in to drop their kids off by starting bell. And not just endangering me but also my two kids--do I need to explain to anyone how much the gringa is like a momma bear?  Parents are some of the worst violators of pedestrian and safety driving laws. I tend to mention this to them if I catch up with them at the front door of the school. I mention that pedestrian walkways are where pedestrians have right of way BY LAW.  And by simple courtesy, but I can't expect too much from folks.

The line that separates life from death

A few days ago I had a conversation with some other ex-patriates and Brazilians about motoboys. These are the black-clad motorcycle delivery guys that I have also mentioned in other blogs. There are many many MANY of them in São Paulo, many of them are nuts weaving in and out of lanes of cars, some are criminals who watch for cars they want to break into. But the fact is that they are soft flesh on the street. I never try to cut one off, I never attempt to knock one down, and I have been known to wave them ahead or make extra space for them. While one Brazilian friend says she will actually try to chase them if they cut her off (LOUCA!), I just let it go. Four motoboys are killed every day on São Paulo streets. Not by me. I respect life.

So that is exactly why I am so angry this morning. As I crossed a street in a crosswalk with right of way, with no cars coming, I heard a loud beeping as I was halfway across. I looked behind me and flying down the road was a black Mitsubishi who wanted to turn right into the pedestrian walkway. I know this not because the car had signaled the right turn (the driver did not) but because it was making a beeline for me, stuck right in the middle of the pedestrian walkway. I stopped because I hate being crushed by 2 tons of metal. And the car turned right at 30 miles per hour, practically on top of my toes. Stopping for me would have cost them, what? 10 seconds more?

Now what happened next does not make me proud. I nearly smacked the car with my hand as it brushed by me, but instead, since I knew that driver would be looking in the rear-view mirror, I yelled "FAIXA DE PEDESTRE, ***HOLE" Yes, the latter word in English. The first words in Portuguese mean Pedestrian Crossing, of course. And I might have made a gesture with my arm. Or both arms. I am only not proud of this because I could only come up with an insult in English at the moment of truth. I plan to practice swear words learned at Palmeiras games in front of the mirror later today so I will not be caught again without an appropriate descriptor.

What's the deal, São Paulo? We are all soft flesh inside our cars, on tops of our motorcycles, crossing the street. Guess what? Your parents, your kids and your friends are soft flesh too. Be pro-life. Be nice. Be like my hometown in Connecticut where we would sit at four-way stops for an hour waving each other on. We tried to out-nice each other. 

Here, the competition is not fierce. So far, I win. Even with the swear word.

Teaching's it going?

1 comment:

  1. That's really terrible.

    Next time, instead of smacking the car (that's surely going to hurt), try holding out your keys. With some luck you'll scratch it end to end. That's nothing to be proud of either but it's a small victory.

    Actually, that's a terrible idea. I once almost got into a car crash like that and I couldn't quite believe anyone would drive that aggressively (unfortunately, I know some people do). It occurred to me that it might be a carjacker making a quick getaway. All the more reason not to escalate matters.

    On a different note, I used to live around the corner from the Abbey Road crossing and, even though I didn't have a car, I felt pretty bad for the drivers.