Just a thought....
Don't compare your life to others'. You have no idea what their journey is all about.

Thursday, 03 March 2011

São Paulo transport 101

My final metro on the way home.
Just an old man and myself enjoying the peace.

Oh my day started well enough, beyond my desire to ignore it completely, that is, and continue dreaming. I seem to be permanently tired lately - not so much tired as unutterably, inexplicably sleepy. I pulled myself together and dragged myself through my morning routine and finally made my way to the bus stop in the rain. What? You were expecting me to say sunshine or something? Ha! Yes, for the zillionth day, it is yet again raining. Actually, it just hasn't stopped. Good thing I like rain.

As I approached my bus stop, my bus, blissfully empty and unaware of my sleepy, but frantic attempts to get its attention, sailed on by. I eyed the rain and the now empty, uncovered bus stop and decided to go to the other stop under the huge rubber trees. I had barely gone a lick when the next bus came - packed to the gills. I ran to catch it, dropping my (thankfully waterproof) bag in the road and snapping one of the spines of my umbrella (yes, the replacement umbrella) as I got into the bus. Yep! It's going to be a great day!

Which brings me to my topic for today, The (Brief) Unofficial Guide to Surviving São Paulo's Public Transport System.

Embark and disembark

1. Elbows:

Why do you think you were created with those ungainly protrusions? To create and maintain your place on the bus or train, of course! They're also useful for removing obstinate obstacles. Today, I was the obstinate obstacle.... painfully... you know that little muscle running alongside the spine? Yes, that one. This person was proficient in the skill of elbow arts (a division of the crowd-bully martial arts discipline).

2. Footstomp:
A cousin to the elbow tactic. This one is simple. If a foot is in the way, stand on it. It can also be helpful to short people who need the extra inch or so to reach the bars to hold on. If a group gets together, a finely choreographed dance can be performed using this method.

3. Backpack:
In many societies, personal space is desirable. On crowded transport, it becomes a practical impossibility. The key here is to pack your bag as full as possible. This creates the necessary space around you. Don't worry about weight or back problems. There is usually someone who will oblige with an arm or bag you can rest your backpack on in a spirit of cheerful sharing.

4. Perfume:
This is a tricky one, though lethal if you get it right, as a lot of the population have an immunity to this weapon. There are two ways to apply this. One can be very quick, weather permitting. Simply omit deodorant. You need hot weather for this. The second method takes a few hours of preparation. Fill your bath with the perfume of your choice and marinate. Note: simply spraying copious amounts on before leaving is not as effective, as it doesn't penetrate the pores and can be rubbed off by fellow passengers. That would be giving your advantage away.

5. Hair:
This is a more subtle tool. It becomes more effective during peak hour commutes. The idea here is to either have vast quantities of hair or very spiky hair. In either case, your best friend is gel - as much as possible. You don't want your hair giving way before your fellow commuter does. Unfortunately, this tip will not work for really short or tall people, as the key is to have your hair at average eye height.

Your space

1. Poles and bars:
After a late night, these can be a lifesaver. Hold onto one. Lean into it. Wrap yourself around it. The support is invaluable. Don't be concerned with the other passengers. If they need to, they can attempt to move to another part of the bus or train. There are plenty of poles (ie. upright beds) for all. The lower cross-bars are useful as seats too. When you are really tired, they are good, as you don't have to lower yourself or get up out of one of the regular seats. It's useful to make sure there is someone actually sitting in the seat behind you, as the person's shoulder makes a good backstop.

2. Doors:
The announcer who frequently admonishes passengers not to stand in front of the doors and to keep them free has never taken public transport. They don't know that is the absolute best place to stand. For one, you are the first to get off at your stop. At the next stop, make sure to plant your feet firmly, so you don't get pushed out of the way, while others try to leave. This is important. If you are standing at the side of the door, you can hold onto the available poles for extra help.

3. Seats
If you are tired, or need to read or do your makeup, ignore the restricted seating signs. You may have to move sharply to get to the seat. Speed is essential. The ability to climb over people is useful at this point. Maximise your seating. A large bag or bulky clothing is helpful. Men have an advantage here, as it is socially acceptable to sit with your legs splayed or with your ankle resting on your knee. Teens can utilise two seats by resting their feet on a second seat. Life is hard work. You deserve your rest. If you feel the need to stretch out, pretending to sleep will ensure that you remain undisturbed.

4. Socialising:
If you are travelling with a friend, share the love. Your social lives are particularly interesting to other passengers, as they are deprived of watching soap operas while travelling. Sitting at opposite sides of the carriage or bus will ensure widest publication.

Killing boredom

1. Books:
Books, newspapers, magazines are all great diversions. If the bus or train is crowded, you have the added advantage of being able to rest your reading matter on another's shoulder. Curling yourself around a pole also helps for stability, allowing you to read easier. When reading large newspapers, try to make sure you have a double seat to yourself or at least have an accommodating neighbour.

2. Make up:
This demands considerable skill, but, with practice, it can become an art form. If you drop your lipstick, try to drop it in the direction of another passenger to avoid it falling on the unhygienic floor. Make sure that you grab a seat at all costs, as standing to do your make up is precarious at best.

3. Sleep:
Sleep is so necessary. Between work and your social life, it is hard to get sufficient sleep. Sleeping on buses and trains is particularly good as a) it kills time; b) it makes sure you remain undisturbed (see #3 under "Your space"); c) it can be done almost anywhere. Caution: If you are inclined to sleep with your mouth open and/or drooling, be aware that many cell phones have cameras.

4. Mobile phones:
With the advent of technology, there is no longer any excuse to be bored. Consider your faulty or non-existent ear-phones to be a generous gesture towards your deprived travelling companions. Turn up the volume, so that everyone else can save their batteries and listen to your music.

5. Poles, bars and seats:
It has been widely proven that people appreciate free entertainment. Since you have dreams of being a drummer and/or are in training for carnival, your fellow commuters can benefit from your skills. Poles and bars are more private, but can be felt by those with hearing deficiencies, but are useful in case commuters have ear phones on and can't hear the tapping. Seats are much more gratifying, as the sound carries further. Soon you will have everyone bopping in time. What a generous nature you have!


  1. Lmao! Love it! I have both suffered and committed some of those! Have a good weekend Boksie! :-D

  2. ROFLMBO!!!!!!! This was EPIC and brings back memories oh-so-vividly.... I LOVE it!!! XD really well written, ma...!

  3. LOL alot to deal with! It would be better tho if you didnt have to
    deal with the heat! Bless you!

  4. Sounds like nothing but a big party, minus the fun part.
    I don't like perfume... I do like deoderant.

  5. haha bert. :) well the inside of your train looks very clean and non-wet!

  6. Which part, Katey? The curling yourself up around the pole or putting on your make up? ; ) You have a great weekend too!

    Tat, I figured you'd get a kick out of it. I only just remembered that I hadn't included singing! Ugh!

    Janet, for the most part, it entertains me, but yes, less heat would be nice.

    Bert, no party. The party will start tomorrow. Luckily I don't have to be on public transport tomorrow or through this coming week, though I rather imagine being at home will be raucous enough.

    Kimmy, that train is brand spanking new and we're the end of the line here - and it was mid-morning at that point, so a quiet time.

  7. *laughing* Wow, I could add a few to it to make it reminiscent of India, but it all sounds very familiar! haha. Really well written guide for visiting Hell. Um, I mean, Brazil. *ahem koff* Thanks, Tint. ;)

  8. Other than perfume, this is the one that really really bugs me! Only time I feel like reaching out and giving a sharp slap to the offender.

    Think it comes from being on the end of people ( read ex men/partners ) drumming their fingers telling me to hurry up.

    Now if I could just take photographs like those two you have posted up there I would be so chuffed.

  9. This is brilliant. You are such a trooper. Nice train when it is empty! Looks a lot like Vancouver's Sky train.

  10. grinning..well, you used a bunch of time to think about this..huh!

  11. Kippy *laugh* I gather you're dying to visit?

    Lois, that little... uh... annoyance is actually one of my top peeves. It can drive me around the bend in seconds when they're doing it a distance away, but when they're banging on my seat... argh! As for the photos... thanks! They're poor quality, but they serve their purpose, I guess.

    Ien, trooper is rather apt. Going to work is like going into battle ; ) The empty train is new and thus nice. I hope it stays that way.

    Tori, no time really. Those were observations taken from one trip into work.


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