Monday, October 3, 2011

My first day on the job and Sao Paulo's Traffic

Today was like my first day of first grade all over again. I had my clothes laid out the night before and my backpack was stuffed with the things that all great accountants carry (note: I use a backpack rather than a computer bag as suggested by many who said its an easy way to not draw attention that you have a computer). Supplies included a ten key, calculator, multiple flash drives, a notebook, a few pens and pencils, and the ever dependable Dell Lattitude E6410 with privacy screen.

After a quick stretch (still feeling the effects of tweaking my back just over a week ago), a continental breakfast, and locating a nearby taxi I was ready to conquer the day. Speaking no Portuguese I quickly handed the taxi driver the address of my destination and buckled in. Even despite my anxiousness to get started on my project, I noticed the driver had not started driver. It was apparent he had no idea where he was headed. I handed him a (company than rhymes with oogle but cannot mention because they are a firm client so I will refer to them as "G") G map. He looked at the "G" Map and drove about two blocks trying to type it into the GPS. However he was still confused. I remembered last week I had printed turn by turn directions from "G" last week just so I could track the route and ensure it was an efficient route, thereby displaying my audit background again. I handed the driver the "G" directions with turn by turn maps and he was like a kid on Christmas and we were on our way. Apparently despite the directions being printed in English, the fact I included turn by turn maps was really beneficial.

The company I am working for (I have not asked for permission to mention the company or the people at the compmany so its the "company" for now) is roughly 8 kilometers (5 miles) away from the hotel and it took 35 mins and $35BRL ($20USD) to get there. A far cry from my 3.5 mile 6 minute drive from my house to the Ernst & Young office in Columbus, Ohio. Why you ask? Sao Paulo is much larger from a land mass than New York but has many more cars in condensed areas. In fact, if you "G" (remember it rhymes with oogle but I do not want to mention any of our clients in my posts) Traffic Congestion, the top right picture and description on the Wikipedia page reads "According to a Time magazine article, São Paulo has the world's worst traffic jams. In fact, traffic is so bad, that Sao Paulo limits the number of cars that are allowed in the city during certain hours. They monitor traffic flow by the first couple of letters on the liscense plate. For example lets say license plates that start with the letter A are not allowed in the city until 10a on certain days of the week. Most of you would say, wow, I would just live in the city then and walk or use public transportation. In actuality, many workers choose to live outside the city due to the high cost of living here, but purchase two cars so they can rotate the license plates. They would drive their car with the B license plate on the days that the A license plate would not be allowed inside the city until later in the day. Please note that I have simplified the letters and times for simplicity but I think you get the point.

Who are the bravest people in the city? Bus Riders? No. Subway Riders? No. Drivers? No. Motobike riders? Close but no cigar. Give up? The answer is Pedestrians. There are very few cross-walk lights and motorists seem to not slow down for pedestrians. In fact, I could have sworn that my taxi sped up a couple of times to make things interesting. On the main streets there are crosswalks to cross (but they are in the middle of the street rather than at an intersection) which the red and green lights similar to what we are used to the U.S. But on 90% of the streets, its look both ways, look both ways again, put one foot out check both ways again, and then jump across the road. Now I am exaggerating a bit but you get the point. It does help that several roads are one way so you can stare the one way traffic is coming from and walk across the street.

I arrived at my location which is in a nice area called Brooklin (Shout out to the BK!, home of the Jay-Z and the Brooklyn Nets). Side note, there were many streets named after states in the U.S. on my way. I walked up to a skinny highrise office building and enter the front door. I look at the two security guards and realize quickly this is going to be interesting. I remembered I had the names and address of my two contacts in my portfolio so I handed that to them. They spoke to me in Portuguese and I did what I always do. I laughed and said "Eu não falo Português". Now I know what you are thinking, you told them that you dont speak Portuguese in Portuguese. Thats right, I know phrases like "how much does this cost" "wheres the bathroom", and "are you trying to rob me". They swiped me in and led me upstairs to meet with the Finance Manager. The people at the company I am working with are awesome and we try as much as possible to understand what each other is staying. My Entrepreneur/CEO is a charismatic guy who has a lot of experience in the construction industry and has a lot of great ideas. We had a two and a half hour meeting to start the day. Attendees included myself, the CEO, the Finance Manager, and Fernanda, a  from Endeavor. Fernanda served the role of Endeavor representative and also translator. The meeting went very well and we started to discuss the many tasks that my services could take on and how I would spend the first two weeks getting to know the compmany, the next two weeks getting to know the new plant being built, and spend the final three weeks designing and organizing comments and thoughts on how to better integrate the company for continued growth and success.

After getting to know the CEO over lunch (I still have not had a bad meal here), I spent the afternoon organizing and gathering data with the help of the Finance Manager and "G" translate. She knows a good amount of English but we often found ourselves referring back to "G" translate to help bridge the gap. Talk about marketshare for that company that rhymes with oogle! I eventually left work around 630p and headed outside to find my taxi driver and jump back into the Sao Paulo traffic jam. 

I am now taking donations for my trip, if you want to donate money, please send via paypal to  

1 comment:

  1. Nice post, Tyler. I read about the traffic in Sao Paolo in the Economist just last week. Hope you get some time to enjoy the sights.