Monday, November 27, 2017

The Compromise

So I know this guy, he parks cars.

That's a relatively common profession here, for people who don't have anything else in the way of opportunity - take charge of a number of parking spaces, collect money to help them parallel park and ostensibly watch over the vehicles while they are gone.  In a land without parking meters, or jobs, the flanelinha is king.

I don't know his name, alhthough he did tell me once, but it was complicated and I didn't get my head around it.  I'm sure he's got a nickname but I don't know what it is.  There used to be another guy who parked cars in the same spot, but his problems overtook him and now he's gone.  The old guy used to be friendly to me, when I walked by I always said hello, at least until he abandoned his post and started wandering around my neighborhood, talking loudly to himself, collecting aluminum cans instead of watching parking spaces.  Haven't seen him around for months.

The current guy used to ignore me, until I bought something from him, or employed his services.  I think I paid him to carry some rusting shelves to my store, where they sit, rusting still, waiting for me to put them into use or put them back on the street.  Now he's friendly to me when I walk by.

This guy - he's got these serious buggy eyes, which make him look like a crack head, which in all likelihood is what he actually is.  Whatever his faults are, he is very polite to me, as well as lots of other people who frequent the road where he maintains his parking spaces.  I call him Amigo, which here in Bahia could mean pretty much anybody.  He returns the favor.

The other day I was finally off to get my lunch after a long and exasperating morning waiting on customers and otherwise trying to maintain my tiny and possibly failing business, when I walked through his territory and spotted a large stack of steel shelving.

Steel shelving is one of my obsessions.  I've bought a lot of it over my time here, it's great because the termites don't eat it, and you can put stuff on it.  There's a standardized shelf size but a considerable variety of shelf weights and qualities, and the uprights that the shelves are bolted to vary in gauge and format as well.

I spotted this stack of shelving and it literally stopped me in my tracks.  You see, I'd been looking for some new shelving since the last units I purchased got put into use at my new apartment and the wooden shelves I built to hold my overstock at the store began to get full-bore devoured by termites, or carunchos, or whatever the fuck they are, these bugs that eat wood.  They are eating with such gusto that I can smell the by-products of their digestion whenever I get near the soon-to-be-history shelves.

So basically, I needed more shelving.  And there it was.

My bug-eyed amigo was nearby, so I called out to him to see what the deal was with the shelves, and he told me they were his.  In all likelihood, he picked them out of the trash, or took charge of them as soon as they were being tossed out, more credit to him for his entrepreneurship.  I picked out the best, least-rusted shelves and uprights, which made up less than half of his stock, and offered him ten reais as kind of a joke.  He replied with "Come on, give me at least fifteen!" which I promptly did, as I was more than prepared to give him thirty.

Dude took my money and ran.  During lunch I decided that I should really go back and buy some more uprights, but when I went back I found a couple other homeless guys pillaging what was left of the stock of shelves, and my amigo was gone, presumably indulging in whatever it was that fifteen reais would buy for him.

So a little while after that my friend spots me and tells me he has a wheelchair to sell.  That's all well and good, but I have no real use for a wheelchair, and my packrattish tendencies aren't so far out of control that I'd buy a wheelchair just because, at least not yet.  I tell him that if I know anyone who needs one I'll tell him, being completely honest but also knowing full well that there's basically zero chance of that happening.

That was about a week ago.  In the meantime, they've been repaving the street where he parks his cars, which means his income is pretty much shot for the time being.  Every time he spots me he tries to get me to buy the wheelchair, he's worried someone will steal it, which judging from past experience is an honest concern.  Guy lives on the street after all, not like he's got a locked door to keep it behind.

Today I started in on my "If I find someone who needs one, I'll tell you" spiel,  when the futility of the whole thing just got to be too much for me.  "You know," I tell him, "You need to find a place that could really use a wheelchair," and I remember the shelter.

There's a shelter, or "abrigo" as they are called here, right on the same street that he lives/works on.  Lots of elderly in there, probably exactly the kind of place that could use an extra wheelchair.  I decide it's time to do a Good Deed.

Everyone should do a Good Deed from time to time.  I really do them way too seldom.  It makes you feel good, being all altruistic and shit, which can be especially useful if your day-to-day is, you know, less than optimal.

I tell my amigo: if you bring the wheelchair to the shelter and they accept it as a donation I will give you ten reais.  Again, this seemed like way less than what the thing was worth, even beat up and rusty, but if I've learned anything after fifteen years in Brazil it's that you start low and work your way up - often you discover that what you thought was ridiculously cheap was in fact more than the other party thought to be a reasonable offer.

Such was the case today.  Amigo said great, ten reais, and charged off with the wheelchair in the direction of the shelter.  I trailed behind, arriving in time to ascertain that 1. they did take donations, and 2. they would take the wheelchair.  I gave my amigo his ten reais, completed my Good Deed, and everyone was happy.

Amigo didn't stick around to walk back up the hill with me.  He was already negotiating something with another sketchy-looking dude as I made my way back to my store.  Didn't matter - if he blew his cash on crack, or whatever, that was up to him, the wheelchair was probably going to find its way to being a real help to someone, and that was the important thing.  And the dark cloud that follows me around just over my head dissipated for about half an hour.

Of course, now I'll be even more of a target for whatever else this guy has to sell...

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