The Taxi Drivers in Sao Paulo are for the most part locals that grew up here, which is somewhat uncommon in the U.S. I find that the large majority of U.S. taxi drivers are immigrants from outside the country. Back home I enjoy talking to them about their countries and customs to pass the time of the drive. This is possible because for the most part they do speak English, and I so say for the most part because not all of them do. Here in Brazil, the taxi drivers do not speak English, nor would I expect them to since I am in their country. With these rides each day, it is more about entertainment and shock value to see what happens along the way as I sit in silence. Recently, I have not had much to write about in terms of taxi rides as the drivers have followed my broken Portuguese to take certain routes that will not leave us sitting in traffic for hours. Its been smooth sailing for the most part but do have a couple of small stories to share from the past week or so.
Story 1 - Taxi Drivers love the Women of Sao Paulo. Last week coming home from work, one taxi driver was either drunk or really liked women. Despite my attempts to let him know I had no idea what he was saying, he would slow the car down and point for me to see women walking down the street, waiting for the bus, or even sitting at small cafes. But he did not stop there, he gave two short honks of his horn and gave them the thumbs up. Almost to let them know that they are doing a good job, of whatever it was they were doing. I got some good laughs out of this and he would always have a huge smile and some things a million miles a minute that I have no idea what it was. He was getting paid to have fun at work, so I can't complain about the extra $1 it cost me to get to my hotel from all the stopping and slowing down.
Story 2 - A Scene from Grey's Anatomy in Sao Paulo. I pass two hospital type places (one actually says hospital and one has ambulances stop at it but no signs saying its a hospital) where doctors and nurses are frequently spotted outside. I also see a few doctors driving in the mornings ready to start their work day. The main difference between doctors driving here in Sao Paulo and doctors driving in the U.S. is that I have not seen a doctor driving anything other than a small car, similar to what everyone else drives. I do not see too many Doctors in the U.S. driving a Honda Fit, except maybe on the television show Grey's Anatomy. Also, in line with doctors and Grey's Anatomy, I also saw a man last week at dinner who was seemingly chugging a few quick beers. The difference was that he seemed a bit paranoid and kept looking over at us as we were the only people in the place. Just before I paid the bill and got ready to leave, the waiter came out and put the man's coat on him so he could also exit the restaurant. The strange thing about this coat, was that it was a long white trench coat, and it was an on duty doctors coat! Apparently doctors like to drink on the job here just like in Grey's Anatomy. (I'm sure he was already off duty, but its a funny story!) Another things I find fascinating is that ambulances here are narrow vans that are usually stuck in traffic but like the motorcyclist, they do a good job of weaving in and out of traffic. I was venture to say your chances of being saved in a major accident in Sao Paulo are a bit less that if you were in the U.S where everyone pulls out of the way and lets them pass, but they do a good job with the amount of traffic they are dealing with.
Story 3 - You Can't Sit Here. Today, I felt a little like Rosa Parks or Forrest Gump, and I was okay with it. I walked out of the hotel and proceeded to the first taxi in the line to take it to work. I got into the taxi and the guy looked at me and I handed him my directors and address and said where to go. He said a few things in Portuguese and when I said my famous "Nao Falo Portugues" he looked back at the directions said something about time while pointing to his watch and hit the unlock button for the doors and pointed for me to get out. If you followed my post on The American Taxi Heist, you understand why I got out so quickly. I went to the next taxi who was a young guy listening to American Rock music so it was a much better taxi to be in for the morning commute. The thing that did surprise me was that the young taxi driver did not have GPS and resorted back to the small phonebook style book of maps and also my printed directions. It still amazes me that despite the very coordinated taxi system here in Sao Paulo, drivers are not required to, or voluntarily have a GPS system. They would make a lot more money and not get stuck in traffic after the small investment.
Those are the only short stories that I have but I am for certain that in the two weeks I have left here in Sao Paulo there will be a few more!