Traffic in Brazil is crazy. I was very happy that we were on foot most of the time, walking to and from the Mission Office, to the grocery store, and to Church services. When we wanted to go to the Mall, we walked three or four blocks to the Metro. Sometimes we would hop on the bus to bring us home from the grocery store, since they allowed the seniors in Brazil to ride free.
I’ll never forget the day we got on one of the buses, sure that it was headed over the bridge to take us close to our apartment. At the last minute the bus made a left turn instead of going straight. We got out of our seats and stood next to the bus driver, but he just kept right on going. I was trying to count the blocks and keep track so we could find our way back. All the while I was chattering excitedly to my dear husband. Of course, it was in English and the bus driver had no idea what we were talking about, but if I were a gambler I would take bets that he knew exactly what the problem was and that we wanted off.
I was really distressed when he made a right turn and I was losing track of where we were. When he finally stopped to let us off, I thought we were hopelessly lost. We got off the bus and I turned to go back the way we had come. However, my dear husband turned to go in the opposite direction. It seems once we got off that he recognized where he was. As part of his job in taking care of the mission finances, he had to walk to various banks to take care of financial transactions. We had actually ended up at another entrance to the Metro station. We just didn’t save ourselves many footsteps that day, as it was probably about the same distance as if we had walked home from the grocery store in the first place.
The streets in Sao Paulo are not quite laid out in nice, square blocks. The city is about 450 years old, and the streets just take off here and there and meander all over the place, many times with no rhyme or reason and made me think they might have begun as cow trails.
Left turns are not allowed according to the law, but the drivers here take all kinds of crazy chances. They’ll create a third lane, where there is no third lane if it suits them. They’ll motion to you that they are going to pull in front of you and then they do it and boy, you better back off. The motorcyclists in Sao Paulo are everywhere and they are a protected species. They take full advantage of that fact—they buzz between cars, whipping around here and there. You better not hit one, because even if it isn’t your fault, it’s your fault. Their motorcycles are much smaller than the huge ones you find in this country.
Brazilian drivers are very gutsy and don’t obey the law much at all. The police here don’t really pick people up, they just take pictures of someone speeding or doing some other whacky thing and send you a ticket in the mail. There are so many people on the roads that they don’t think they are ever going to get caught. President U was a very confident driver. In order to drive in Brazil, you have to be somewhat aggressive and confident. I assure you that President U didn’t ever break the law. He didn’t have a depth perception problem like I do, and many times I had to close my eyes, almost expecting to hear the crunch of our fender, but it never happened. The Lord surely watched over him and us. Except for a little showing of white knuckles, I got along well as a passenger.
We lived close to an intersection and many times I would see a car race up to the stop sign, toot the horn and race on through. They expected that little horn honk to let you know that they intended to race through the intersection and the clear message was stay. the. heck. out. of. the. way. I saw drivers go through red lights in much the same way.
Though many, many people have cars in Sao Paulo (it is a HUGE city), there are also many families who don’t own a vehicle at all and use their feet or the public transportation system to get around. Imagine that, teenagers, no car of your own in Brazil. We are very fortunate and somewhat spoiled here in the USA.