Monday, October 17, 2011

The Americano Taxi Heist...

Today was the start of week 3 here in Sao Paulo and I have settled in quite nicely due to wonderful Southern Hospitality and supporting cast. I know the term of Southern Hospitality is normally reserved to described how those of us that live north of the Mason Dixon line are treated in the Southern United States (excluding Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana). What Time Irado has experienced from the Paulistas goes above and beyond what was expected. The staff at the Company I am working at have been awesome, the hotel has been great, and other than the taxi rides I would say Sao Paulo is very similar to American cities. I'm even learning crazy Portuguese words like Paralelepipido (a shape made of parallelegrams) and Inconstitucionalissiamamente (unconstitionally) from Mariana and Janaina at work, which obviously can be used in everyday conversations.

There I was getting into my taxi to head home, thinking that I did not have anything to write about on my blog. And then it happened. I should have known that the taxi ride would not let me down. I was just in a conversation at lunch with Catia and Rodrigo about taxi rides and comparing taxi's from Brazil and the U.S. There I was leaving the building, looking around at the neighborhood enjoying the new daylight (thanks to Brazil's Daylight Savings Time!). I look up and see a cab right in front of the building. Normally, you are suppose to walk to the taxi stand to get a taxi, however, the taxi stand was only about 50 feet away. I gave a little wave and the driver acknowledged me. I hopped in and handed the driver my hotel address. He rattled off some Portuguese which I promptly met with a smile and the words " não falo Português", which means "I don't speak Portuguese". He said something again, followed by my hotel name and I said "sim". Away we went. This taxi ride would be special and I knew it from the start. As we pulled away I heard the lyrics "You're a Heartbreaker, Dream Maker, Love Taker, Don't you mess around with me!, You're a Heartbreaker, Dream Maker, Love Taker, Don't you mess around - NO NO NO!" and I was living large. Pat Benatar! You can rarely hear a Pat Benatar song in the U.S. these days so again I knew it was a special ride.

Sao Paulo Taxi's

The typically taxi ride from hotel to work or work to hotel is approximately $35BRL, and about the $10BRL point in the ride, the taxi driver got a "chirp" from his Nextel phone. Now, here is where the ride turns for the worse. For my closest friends, you know how much Nextel phones irritate me when people use them as a walkie talkie. Do us all a favor and just answer it like a phone, you know your Nextel does that right? After all it is a phone. Over the Nextel chat, I hear something about a "mulher" and taxi. Mulher in Portuguese is woman, so I was following it a bit. He decided to pull the taxi over, with the meter running, and take the call. The driver turns around to me and says about 50 words in less than 10 seconds and I had no idea what he was saying. I shook my head and laughed and repeated my pattented phrase, "Eu não falo Português". He looks very distraught and responds to the man over the Nextel something about "Americana nao falo Portugues". We sit there for 2-3 minutes as the meter continued to run and he continued to talk Portuguese to me and the man on the other end of the annoying Nextel. I heard him repeat "Eu não falo Português" and looked back at me again to check and see if I learned Portuguese in the 5 minutes we had been sitting there. Finally, he looks at me again and says "we go back". I said "por que" which means why, and he responded about "another persona, a Gisele, a woman, know you, we go back". Instantly I thought, I do not know any women in Sao Paulo outside of those at work that had already left. I asked again why we were going back and he said "Sorry, we go back".

At this point I'm thinking that some woman is about to distract the driver while I get robbed or we are picking up another passenger in the taxi who happens to be going to the same area. He keeps repeating "sorry, sorry, sorry" and shuts the meter off. I'm now confused wondering what is going on, after all I was about 1/3 of the way home before the Nextel started Chirping. We pull back up to the taxi stand, the driver shuts off the engine, and say "please, go", motioning for me to grab my stuff and leave. He exits his door and runs around the corner, still leaving me a bit baffled. There is another taxi 15 feet away so I head to the small white car (all taxi's here are small cars and are white) and the driver is not in the car. I stand near this car looking for either driver laughing at whatever is transpiring, and I suddenly see my original driver coming back around the building carrying a women's luggage. I suddenly realize, that this woman must have called a taxi to take her to the airport or somewhere she was toting all this luggage. When he said ""another persona, a Gisele, a woman, know you" He meant "No you" as in I was not the correct passenger for the taxi.

He again apologizes and the woman looks at me and we both start laughing as the driver scrambles to load his car. Across the street, the man wearing about 25 gold chains and a Barbecue apron cooking meats on the corner, starts yelling my way, in Portuguese. I look at him and wave and laugh again because I am absolutely astonished at the turn my night took. He continues to speak loudly and motion with his grill tools and saying telephone and again I have no idea what he is saying. I have great peripheral vision and I do a quick glance and I realize the taxi driver is using the phone in the taxi stand behind me. He makes eye contact with me while the grill master continues to shout. The taxi driver begins to laugh and yells back at the man, "He Americana, Nao Falo Portugues" and the man made of gold and barbecue sauce laughs and waves as I jump in the back seat of what feels like a Smart Car. I recognize the taxi driver from a ride home last week and he says "Alemeda Itu and Augusta, Mercure Hotel?". I laughed, and said, "You're speaking my language" to which he answered "Eu não entendo Inglês" which I understood as he did not understand English, but I was still relieved. I sat back and for the 35 minute taxi ride and laughed the whole way. Maybe it was because I saw a motorcyclist almost flip his bike and immediately make the Catholic "sign of the cross", or maybe it was because Lionel Richie dominated the radio play. Either way, the next time I get in a bind, I'll see if Paralelepipido or Inconstitucionalissiamamente help me. 

1 comment:

  1. You have had more experiences in these taxi's than most of us will ever have, home or abroad!!