Nighttime on Joaquim Novaes, morning on a socially inappropriate bus.

13 06 2007

Is it at all strange–or is it entirely appropriate–that the gas station diagonal from my apartment building was blasting on repeat last night the reggaeton song “Da me mas gasolina”? Even though I’d shut all the windows and closed all the doors, the base came through my concrete walls and thrice interrupted my reading of The Time Traveler’s Wife. But I persevered, and after hours and hours of propping myself up on my bed amidst my yellow down blanket and my three giant pillows, I turned the final pages of the book, weeping and wiping my eyes with the back of my hand, reading and re-reading the final passage. There is nothing like a good book. And you know it’s a good book when the thoughts in your head are louder than the reggaeton at the gas station next door.

Waking up this morning was a little harder than normal, considering that last things I’d taken before falling sleep were two Tylenol PMs and a cup of tea that has just as much sleep-inducing herbs as the anesthesia administered to me when I had my wisdom teeth removed. A cup of this tea alone can knock me out for the entire night; it’s amazing they sell this stuff over the counter. And why I doubled the intake of sleep aids is beyond me, though I know I didn’t want to risk another night of being awoken by street noise. In truth, I’m not sure anything could have woken me up after the tea and the pills; and nothing did until I heard Brazilian polka music coming out of my clock radio at 5:42 this morning. It’s unlikely anyone could sleep through that.

As I am attempting to save money these days, I take the bus rather than a taxi to and from school. The ride is often long and the wait at the stop is sometimes longer, but it’s more cost efficient. This morning, I boarded an unusually less-empty bus and took a seat next to a girl who was deeply engaged in reading her book, smushed up against the wide window. I didn’t have many thoughts in my head during the ride until she got off the bus twenty minutes later and I pushed over to her seat near the window. I hadn’t noticed it until I moved into her spot, but where there should have been a space in the window for my face to look outside, there was instead a sign that said I was sitting in the seat “adequate for obese people.” If I couldn’t read the sign, which I could, there was a drawing of an obese person, which looked rather like the outline of the Pillsbury Dough Boy or State Puff. It said on the sign that the seats marked in green were the ones for obese people. I looked around. There were no other green seats. I was in the fat seat.

On the walk from the padaria this morning, coffee and calorific pão de queijo in tow, I thought about the social absurdity of that seat, how much judgement is involved in being in one of those seats. This morning, while sitting in this green seat, if I were to see a person larger than myself walk on the bus, would it have been appropriate for me to offer my seat to the person? Had I done so, I would have been revealing my judgement of the person’s physical stature and suggesting the person was more obese than myself. What an embarrassing situtation for all people involved.

And then I thought, well if they’re going to allocate certain seats for certain body types, why not go ahead and allocate all the seats in the bus for different physical, social, or emotional states. For instance, if green seats are for obese people, can yellow seats be for anorexics? Should red seats be for adulterers and should purple seats be reserved for lesbians? Why not have all brown seats be for schitzophrenics and yellow seats for those living at or below the poverty line? This could go on all day, this identifying of human characteristics and designating places for them on Brazilian buses. Oh, if there were world enough and time.

Although the US has had its terrible, horrific moments of shamefully disgraceful behavior as far as the history of bus seats are concerned, this morning I felt glad I was raised in a country that can now be as sensitive (or politically correct to an anal retentive degree) to  issues of civil liberties as it is. True, at times, we’ve gone overboard, what with the “sexual harr-assment” (rather than harr-ass-ment, you remember) pronunciation fiasco from years back; but at least it’s nice to know that if I walk onto a public bus in the US and see a sign saying I should sit in a seat based on my pants size, there are lawyers and unions and civil rights groups out there who will fight against the injustice done to me and my ass.

It could go terribly awry, however, what with the media picking up on the story, and then the lawyers’ fees and the ACLU getting all up in my business.  But maybe there would be some interviews on primetime, and then, when I’d lost the weight that had originally begun this whole thing, I’d make a series of commercials advertising the latest fitness craze or by taking a healthy spin on fast food companies. (McSalad! McWater! McGum!)My marriage would end because of my sudden fame and my children would soon end up in rehab centers or in jail because of drunk driving charges as they drove from one A-list party to another. I’d write a biography about the whole experience, in which I would tell of my longing to return to my simple life with a bigger ass, but, what with the complications of the money and rights to the script for the movie, it would be impossible to live a normal life from now on. I would become another jaded overnight common individual, and I’d have to move to L.A.

So it’s really up to me. Do I sit here and choose to fight the State Puff sign? Or do I sit in the green seat and shut up about it, refusing to give it up to anyone of any size? It’s a long bus ride in the morning. And god knows, with this ass, I need all the rest I can get.

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6 responses

13 06 2007
Tina (aka Mom)

It truly amazes me how you can think of all those possibilities and outcomes – I was laughing so hard, but my mind was racing trying to keep up with all those thoughts – help!! get me off that bus !!

13 06 2007
ginacoggio

Mom, if you were on that bus, you’d definitely be in one of the fuschia seats. Those are allocated either to people with obsessive compulsive disorder or those suffering from memory loss. Oops. Looks like you’re both.

13 06 2007
Tina (aka Mom)

Is there a seat color for poor, picked-on mothers?

13 06 2007
Rachel L

Many of your odd experiences in Brazil remind me of my experiences in NYC. Where I just stare for a while, then shake my head in disbelief that I witnessed something like that. (Example: Guy jogging down 2nd Ave in ladies lingerie and a stocking on his head; a guy on subway with FRENCH braids down to his butt, etc.).

Anyway, just thought I’d relate.

In other news, I read Time Traveler’s Wife too and couldn’t stop thinking of it for weeks. I cried too and I NEVER cry at books or movies. Did you read Kite Runner? Also amazing.

14 06 2007
ginacoggio

They don’t pick on mothers here in Brazil. That’s an American thing. Sorry.

14 06 2007
ginacoggio

Rachel–How is it even possible to jog in lingerie? I mean, for a man to jog in lingerie? How does that even work?

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