Last night, I had to take a taxi because the bus I rode was inexplicably wrong. And I didn’t realize it until much, much too late. The 179 bus has, apparently, three very different routes. One goes to the Zona Norte. I didn’t take that one. The other two go to the central bus station by way of the Zona Sul. One goes through Botafogo. This was the bus I should have taken. Thirty minutes from Barra to Botafogo. But no. I took the third option, which takes its sweet hour an a half down to move through the slow streets of Gavea, Leblon, Ipanema, Copacabana, before racing off on the Aterro de Flamengo.
When I realized that I was not going where I wanted to, we were already on the Aterro. The Aterro is dangerous at night, empty and void of anything but grass and shadows. Obviously, I'm not quite reckless enough to wander around there at 10:30 pm. I waited until the two heavy metal dudes sitting in front of me got up to get off. They were my best bets on the "safety in groups" people on the bus...skinny, quirky punks who looked tough but weren't. They were nice and would have escorted me across the road, but I managed to hail a taxi first. Actually, the taxi stopped before I signaled. That should have been my first warning sign.
The taxi driver was professional until we arrived in Botafogo. Then, Mr. Creepy set in. First, he doesn’t actually know how to get to the address I gave him. I give him the name of a major road but forget that my street is one-way. So he drives me to the tail end of the street, where it merges into another road. This is not where I want to be.
“Here’s your road, but you’re gonna have to walk, or pay for me to loop around.”
The meter is already at 14 reis. What’s another six or so?
“Loop around. I forgot it was one way...I should have had you go down a couple of streets... I just want to get home.”
“You don’t know anything, do you?” he mutters under his breath, in a tone that suggests he might take a detour with me in the car and that perhaps I would be dumb enough to not notice that he was taking me far, far away from where I wanted to go.
“Actually, I do know Botafogo pretty well, but only walking. And I guess I never pay attention to whether the roads are one way or not...”
Creepy Taxi Guy begins to stop at red lights. This is an anomaly for taxi drivers anywhere, but especially odd for Rio. He turns around to stare at me, even as the light turns green. “You’re really pretty,” he leers, a statement that’s as ominous as it is insulting. “You’re not from around here, are you? Where do you live? Where are you from?”
At this point, I realize the vulnerable position I am in as a woman, and wisely decide to do a little lying. I give him a fake name, the wrong bairro, and remind him that I am going to meet my boyfriend and that I’m running late. As in, drive faster, do your job, stop trying to be friendly...
“You have a cell phone? What’s the number?”
We’re almost there. I want to get out of the car. I’m paying the ridiculous fare (higher because it's Saturday night), but he’s not giving me my change without a number. So it’s made-up number land, something that slips off the tongue faster than I thought possible...He hands me my change and I’m bolting from the taxi, hoping that Tiago will understand why I’m two hours late...and I’m shocked to discover that I am seven hours late.
But that's another story.