"I will watch your car," the man said, in Portuguese of course. He wore a sleeveless shirt, shorts tattered and frilly at the knees. No shoes. His wrinkled, sun worn skin sported a number of bruises, scrapes, cuts. Maybe a track mark or two.
I started to wave him off, tell him we were all set. There were plenty of other vehicles parked outside the zoo. The area looked nice--and safe--enough. I wasn't worried.
Maria caught my hand. "Let him do it," she said, low caution in her voice, eyes always alert and darting from the man to the two kids climbing out of our car. "It's okay. Just give him a quarter when we leave."
Later, I found out just how common this practice was in Brazil, or at least in that part of the city. It's complete pretense, a way for poor people to earn a little change by watching your vehicle. But from whom are they protecting it? Don't be fooled; you're not paying them to protect your car as much as you are paying for them to not destroy it.
For some reason, this backdoor manipulation shocked me. It seemed so shady, so insincere, so passive-aggressive. But what did I have to compare it to? Is it really that different than the drunken homeless guy outside of Circle K in Boston begging for five bucks so he could score another 40-ounce? Or the woman sitting next to the drive-thru at Jack In The Box in Tucson, half a tit swinging out from under her sweat stained t-shirt, accosting customers as they order their burgers? "I know you got change," she'd say. "You didn't order off the goddamned dollar menu."
Maybe I should have asked the guy to help me move the car when we left.
On a completely unrelated note, I have secured my ticket to the Machine Head/Sepultura concert at Via Funchal on October 14. As I've been a fan of Sepultura for over twenty years, and Machine Head since their inception in 1993, I've seen both bands a number of times across the world. Seeing them together--and in Sao Paulo, no less--will be something special.
Also, as some of you may be aware, I am writing a biography of Sepultura, so I'm working to score some interviews with the band and crew while they're in town.
Things are getting hectic here. I have a deadline tomorrow, and at least a few thousand words to write today. My apartment looks like a Tazmanian devil has swept through, and I have to be out of here in less than a week. I'm waiting for my passport (with renewed visa) to come back, after being returned once already, unapproved, due to an application error.
I'm trying to make friends with stress. It looks like he's going to be here for a while.