Yesterday, while sitting in my classroom during the last period of the day, I was fantasizing about the bus ride to Sao Paulo. I love bus trips here because they are so comfortable and quiet. Most people normally step on the bus and almost immediately lose the functioning of their vocal chords. There are the few resistant people who bring their cell phones aboard and yell into them, but the vast majority of bus travelers are the quiet type who revel in the chance to take a nap with strangers and wake up in a different city. Bus trips are the closest thing to heaven I’ve found in Brazil, with the exception of Sunday mornings and a big cup of coffee in my apartment, and there is never a time when I dread the chance to go travel. The buses in Brazil are huge and fancy, complete with air conditioning and bathrooms, and some of them even have coolers of water or coffee machines on them. These buses are the kind big companies in the States would rent to take their executives on a ski trip or something. The seats recline almost entirely and everyone seems to have the understanding of what to do and what not to do with respect to noise and movement. The rule, basically, is this: find your seat, put your stuff away, sit down, and don’t move or talk for the rest of the trip. This is a fabulous rule, and everyone abides by it.
Almost everyone. Babies are the one, loud, exception. And, oh, let me tell you about the baby–who was not really a baby in the technical sense, only the relative one compared to the rest of the travelers– on the bus who was the most vocal opponent to any kind of bureaucratic rule, spoken or otherwise, that on a bus one must be silent. This jerk, who was old enough to walk and talk, from the second we (me and my three friends) stepped on the bus to Sao Paulo during the rush hour traffic hour, cried and screamed to the point of almost losing his voice. Almost, but definitely not all the way. And after two hours of this sound, while stuck in the worst traffic on the planet, I realized I had to use the bathroom. I don’t like to use moving bathrooms, so I chose not to, until I realized I didn’t have a choice, that while we were there not moving I really needed to go. Turning around to see if the bathroom was in use, I looked past the screaming Devil’s Spawn and saw, to my horror, there was no bathroom.
Me, no bathroom, and baby, makes for some evil thoughts. I had no idea where we were in the city, no clue to judge how close we were to the bus station (i.e: bathroom), and the driver appeared to be lost, taking us on tiny cobblestone streets and backtracking left and right. To make matters worse, the parent of this particular child said, to everyone’s chagrin, “We’re almost there, we’re almost there!” For an hour, the whole bus was “almost there!” and once, when the parent opened the window and leaned the kid out of it to show him, “Look there! Look there! A door! Wow, a door!” I’m sure I’m not the only one who imagined what would happen if she let go.
On the ride home, after the film festival, our ears were accosted a second time, this time by a shouter. Here was a dude on the midnight, hour-and-a-half long ride from Sao Paulo to Campinas, having enough shit to talk about either on his cell phone or to the driver himself, that I actually could hear him through my headphones. I’d even needed to turn the volume way up, thus jeopardizing my ability to sleep at all on the bus, just so this annoying asshole could joke and laugh at the top of his fat lungs the entire time.
At one point during the night, maybe it was as we were waiting for the films to start at the venue, or maybe at some point on the Metro, as the four of us reflected on the first bus ride, Mandy reminded us of the Sex and the City episode where Samantha says to Miranda, “Your baby’s an asshole.” Carrie, or was it Charlotte?, responded, “You can’t call a baby an asshole!” And it’s true. You can’t call a baby an asshole. But, seriously, what’s the difference between calling a grown man who talks for 90 minutes straight on a midnight bus “an asshole,” versus calling a baby who screams and generally does the same obnoxious shit that the grown man does “an asshole?” They’re both ignorant. They’re both being coddled by the people they’re talking to/screaming in the arms of. Chances are, the asshole talking to the bus driver on the midnight ride was, forty years earlier, the asshole in the arms of the parent calling, “Look there! A door!”
In the end, after all was said and done, and after we got to see some fabulous, fabulous films, eat some salgados and drink beer, after the two stupid bus rides, and the two long rides on the Metro (where on one, the conversation I was having with Mandy was interrupted by two teenagers who barged between us, and who seemed to have gotten their long tongues intertwined and rather than untwine them, figured that if they sucked face a little harder and louder it would fix their dilemma,) AFTER ALL THAT, I was able to pare down the two real winners of the entire evening: We won, because we got to have a great night with stories to tell.
But so did birth control companies. Because I am going to be pumping half, if not all, of my salary into them from now until forever to keep my uterus as vacant as possible. I don’t ever, ever want to call, “Look there! Wow! A door!” into anyone’s ear to get him to shut up just so he can go right ahead and turn into the asshole on the bus who won’t stop talking forty years later. No, thank you.
Those weird old cat ladies might be onto something, and I just might join their cause.