Friday, June 20, 2008


Well, the car has finally crapped out, at least for the time being, and I did something on Wednesday that I haven't done in a long time: I took the bus. Here's the funny thing- I actually enjoyed it.

I think I enjoyed it because it brought back fond memories of time spent on public transit- I did a lot of reading and learned a lot of Portuguese riding the subway in New York. First I listened to the Pimsleur starter series of CD's, skipping the 'repeat out loud' part, and then I made hundreds of little flashcards to teach myself vocabulary and verbs. It was mellow time when I could just relax and work my brain a bit. A big part of the 'relaxing' bit is that I never rode the subway at rush hour.

I think the nostalgia had a chance to take hold on my Brazilian bus ride because of what it was not- although I have also done my share of reading and studying Portuguese on Brazilian buses, I have also spent a lot of time clinging to handholds for dear life, wedging my way through solid masses of human bodies, spent an hour or more on foot breathing muggy slimy thrice-breathed air as it pours rain outside, wasted more hours waiting at bus stops for buses that doesn't seem interested in arriving. None of these things occurred on Wednesday. I waited not five minutes for the bus to arrive, it was mostly empty, the busdriver was not insane, and the trip went remarkably quickly. Too quickly in fact, I wanted a little more time to read.

Today, with a verdict of 'blown head gasket' for the car, I took to the bus once more, this time with Lucas, and our destination was the Capoeira Roda. Once again- short wait, lots of empty seats, the busdriver was only mildly psychotic this time. 'Mildly psychotic' means you want to be holding onto something with both hands when you are on foot and generally one hand when you are sitting down. 'Majorly psychotic' means you need to hold on with both hands even when seated, don't dwell on the speed and proximity of things passing by the windows, and perhaps pray if you are so inclined. Lucas and I had fun together on the bus, playing little three year old games (lately he's been either Spiderman and I'm a Power Ranger) and we got there quickly. Unfortunately, the roda was cancelled, which meant we got back on the bus to go home.

On the way back I got more of a taste of why I was so happy to start driving my own car and stop riding the buses: a group of drunk young men being stupid and loud and annoying. Inane, pointless banter, trite slang and general bullshit all at a volume clearly intended to attract the attention of everyone on the bus, which of course it did. I refused to look at them but everyone else did. I let forth a stream of invective of the kind I would prefer Lucas does not hear (but is already peppering his vocabulary) when we got off.

As I contemplate taking the bus on a more regular basis, at least to get to and from Capoeira, there is a dark cloud that hangs over the whole plan. I've never been on a bus that has been robbed (knock on wood) but it happens all the time here. Someone pointed out to me once this place that hijacked buses go so the driver and cobrador (money collector) can presumably fill out incident reports, and there was almost always a bus there when I went by in the evening. Sometimes there were two, or even three. Everyone I know has stories about bus holdups, although often second- or third-hand. These holdups almost never end violently (I'm pretty sure), but you'll get your cell phone taken and of course any cash. Not to mention laptops or digital cameras if you're fool enough to take one of them along. I don't want to be on a bus that gets held up.

There was actually an amusing story on the news the other day about some guy who robbed a bus and then the cobrador and a bunch of passengers went after him and actually chased him down. Evani told me that the cobrador has to pay if the bus gets ripped off, which is probably why he went after the guy. What kind of ludicrous nonsense is that? The employee of the bus company is held responsible for the hijacking and gets his pay docked? What's he supposed to do- refuse entry to potential criminals? I can't stand it when I hear stuff like that, and I wish it didn't happen as often as it does. There is no sense here that businesses should absorb the errors of their employees, or in this case, the non-errors of the employees. It's unloading a loss that should be written off by the company onto some poor dude who is making almost nothing and it should be illegal.

Suddenly methinks that I should get some kind of verification of whether that is actually true before I keep ranting about it. Who says the blogosphere is rife with rumors?


Pedra said...

I ride the bus here everyday and have had minimal problems, surprisingly. I did see one assault on the bus, but it was one guy trying to assault another guy and when he was not successful he ran off the bus quickly. Some of the drivers are insane, but on the positive side you get there faster! I think the key is to learn the routes, not to take the short busses (people say they have more assaults), and to get off if you feel in danger.

AkuTyger said...

What I hear happening more often is one person getting assaulted on a bus and then the robber hopping off and then the person coming forward to report it. Or you hop off the bus and are assaulted at the stop with everyone watching and no one does anything. That's pretty common too.