They say that no other people on Earth are as warm as the Brazilians. Having traveled a lot, meeting people of many different nationalities, I can only agree with this.
But time and again when I drive my car, I recall those times when I needed three hours to get to work by public transport, literally crossing São Paulo City from one end to the other. Every morning I had to endure that tremendous tension, hoping to find a vacant seat on the bus (preferably by the window), because it would be a nightmare to spend one and a half hours fighting for each centimetre on the floor just to place my feet and be able to stand. At the same time, I had to be cautious that no one would lean on my backside to take advantage of the situation.
As soon as I reached downtown, I could smell Greek barbecue (already at eight in the morning!) and that upset my stomach. Then I had to wait for half an hour to catch another bus, desperately trying not to throw up.
Suddenly the worst of all evils happened. A thunder announced that a storm was coming.
“Dear God, where is that bloody driver?”, I asked myself while still standing in the line; and then I felt the first heavy rain drops…
As soon as the bus finally arrived and the driver opened the front door, I almost pushed some girl to the ground in my fight for the best seat. However, the taken seat would still not guarantee my wellbeing.
Predictably, the bus filled up quickly, and due to the heavy rain, every person on the bus was closing umbrellas soaked with water, dropping the water on the shoes of the others. Those who already settled started to close the windows.
“Don’t you want to close your window? – asked a man standing near me.
“No, I don’t. The bus smells to high heaven!”
“You are not alone here” – said another man. “So, close this fu… window now!
“Yeah! Close it right now!” – shouted a man of a wild appearance, who seemed to be ready for starting a riot.
Trying to prevent such a development and just get to work in one piece, I decided to give up in my struggle for some fresh air.
From bad to worse: the air on the bus started to get unbreathable. It was like steam and water mixed with oily skin, cheap deodorant and wet hair (hair was not only wet from the rain, but also as a result of the wet hair-style chosen by some less stylish citizens of this city).
“Help!”, I cried out, desperate to get off the bus. “I can’t take this any longer!”
Still two bus stops to go, I fought my way trough the commuters to pay for my ride, and finally I could anticipate that glorious moment when I could get off the bus.
The bus started to slow down, and in these two seconds that I had before the door threw open, I observed the whole scene once again: the crowded bus, rain outside, and the commuters unwillingly hugging each other, sharing their everyday struggle. They would arrive back home only around 8.00 pm – just in time to watch the evening news, while eating their reheated food.
Despite all the problems associated with everyday commuting on a bus and occasionally stolen wallets, people in that crowd seemed to be somehow happy with their lives.
Living abroad, I miss the complicity of life and that human heat that is so typical for Brazilians, but I do not miss the crowded bus with the closed windows…
This post is also available in: Portuguese (BR)