Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Taxi Cab Confessions

I know you are hoping for the HBO classic, Taxi Cab Confessions, however my stories will not be quite that "interesting" nor will you get any sort of visual confessions. However, during "Spotlight on Social Responsibility Week" here at Time Irado, there have been some classic taxi rides I just had to share.

Starting the day off yesterday, I hopped into the taxi headed to Tecno Logys to dominate the day. This taxi driver was a younger guy so I figured he would almost certainly have a GPS unlike many of the drivers in this mammoth city. I handed my directions printed from the Internet, in Portuguese I might add, and he typed in the address and off we went. We quickly took a turn that I was not expecting and away we went on the back roads. He kept looking at my directions and his GPS and I could tell they did not match. I have taken this drive now over 40 times and I think I know the best way, and it matches my directions. Meanwhile, I notice he does not have a "faceplate" for his radio and is reading while driving. I do not scare easily but we almost swiped a car or two while trying to figure out the directions. Here in Sao Paulo, there are often people at the intersections in the morning handing out free newspapers. My driver took one and immediately pulled it open to read the latest soccer scores. Light turned green, he put the car in gear and took off, with the paper still spread out across the steering wheel. I starting laughing and I think he knew that he should not be doing that as he looked back and then put the paper down. We also ended up on a highway across the river that there was no reason to take, yet his GPS told him to take. However I did get to cross the famous Octavio Frias de Oliveira Bridge , which I call the Brooklin Bridge, because it takes you back across the river to Brooklin. I arrived at my company in the same exact amount of time, but cost me $5BRL more.

On the way home yesterday, I hailed the taxi and jumped in. I did the usual "Alemeda Itu con Augusta, Mercure Hotel" line, and I was met with some sort of gibberish. I have been in Brazil for 26 days and what I heard from that man's mouth was not Portuguese. It reminded me of an elderly gentlemen from the good old days of the South that never quite gets his lips open to get the words out. All he was missing was the cigarette flipping around on his lips while he talked with undecipherable speech.

And it only got better. His phone rang and he answered with what I am assuming was "Ola" but it sounded a lot like Hello. I am an accountant, and by nature I like to count things, and I admit my count my have been off by one or two, but I heard him say "Ola" 27 times. Apparently he could not hear the person on the other end of the phone or they could not understand him. He was still saying "Ola" when his phone rang again, thus proving that there was no one there when he repeated time and time again, his greeting, if that is what you call it. I do not have my doctorate or a law degree, but I am pretty sure there is an unwritten law that says after you say "Hello" or "Ola" 5 times, you hang up and wait for the call back.

Those two stories were just the start of it. Today on the way home from work, I had to wait 10 minutes to find a taxi which is almost unheard of outside our office building. The taxi's swarm like flies around the streets waiting to pick up passersby. Similar to the other day, the man across the street wearing the 20 gold chains while cooking meat on the street corner was yelling toward me and began laughing. I still don't think he understands that I have no idea what he is talking about, but it makes him happy to joke with me so I laugh too because its quite funny. After my wait, the taxi of my dreams pulled up. It was a new fiat, approximately 1.5 times as large as a smart car (still very small). She, yes she, had a red steering wheel cover that was inscribed with "racing" and had a stuffed heart hanging from her rear view mirror. Along the visors, hung a "Hello Kitty Charm", a Sunglasses Clip, Butterfly hair clip, and a hair tie. The car was equipped with beaded seat covers and a 9" GPS screen. I entered the car with The Spinners "I'll Be Around" on the radio, another American Classic, and I sat back and was ready to enjoy the ride.

Then it happened. It being Sao Paulo Traffic. There We sat, for 15 minutes, 30 minutes, 45 minutes, an hour. The driver sporadically looked back to talk to me in Portuguese and the first couple times I said I did not speak Portuguese, however it was again to check to see if I had learned it while sitting in traffic.  I was becoming a bit restless so I grabbed for the magazines in the seat back hoping to read about some Sao Paulo landmarks and maybe plan out the weekend. That was my mistake, assuming I would find the same magazines in this car, that I found in all the others. In this car was a Natura, a makeup company, catalog and the Fiat owners manual. Now, I thought it would be hilarious, so I grabbed for the Fiat Owners Manual and started browsing. It was in Portuguese so I did not understand it, but was easy to get a general idea from the pictures. I made several "Ah ha" sounds and the driver would look back at me to try to figure out what I was figuring out about her car. After 1 hour and 15 minutes we came to a clearing and she headed for the side streets. In a frantic attempt to get out of the traffic mess, she darted down side streets, often times performing making "U" Turns and also the Austin Powers 3 Point Turn to go back the way we came. See for yourself what I was referencing.

This was more than comical to me and this was well worth the additional time and money it was going to cost me. After an hour and 45 minutes, and $65 BRL later, I finally made it back to the Hotel.

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