Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Cheap Thrills in the City of No Enforcement

I get worked up over little things. The principle of the matter, you know? And it always irks me to (re)discover that apparently, principles are like dodo birds: flightless, extinct and pretty much considered foolish by the general population.

After verifying that Shopping 45 in Tijuca is, in fact, in flagrant violation of a new law, I'm tempted to go back with a printout and make them let me use the bathroom for free. The law was passed in reaction to Shopping 45's recent practice of putting turnstiles at their bathroom access and charging R$1 to go in. At a shopping mall. Seriously. The whole Pra├ža Saens Pena is woefully lacking in anywhere to use the restroom, and a shopping mall is one of the few places you are guaranteed a toilet, something that is VERY IMPORTANT when one is pregnant and about to get on a bus going over the Alto de Boa Vista. Why? Well...

For only R$2.75 you can have a death defying roller coaster experience if you pick the right bus at the right time of day. Apparently, today was my lucky day. Both coming and going, there was nearly zero traffic on the way down the mountain, which meant that the bus drivers decided to indulge their inner Ayrton Senna. The winding mountain road that links Barra da Tijuca with Tijuca is a beautiful drive, but the stunts these (and other) drivers pull makes it impossible to appreciate. Both buses nearly collided with cars: the first bus almost rear-ended a vehicle that pulled out as we came around a blind curve at neckbreaking speed; the second, when a car decided to pass a bus going UP the hill and our driver saw him but didn't feel like braking. That upset the passengers on my bus, who erupted into a chorus of "Slow the hell down! There are pregnant women on board!" and the like. If you brave these bus routes, do yourself a favor and get a seat with an arm rest. You're going to need it-I don't know how many times I've seen people actually fall out of their seats and skid across the floor...

So you see, one does NOT want to have a full bladder when flagging a bus!

Both of these anecdotes illustrate my biggest pet peeve with Rio de Janeiro (and possibly Brazil as a whole). Lack of enforcement.

It's not that Brazil doesn't have laws on the books, it's that there's no incentive or not enough people to actually make sure they're followed. Traffic laws are a great example. Supposedly they've outlawed the motorcyle's freedom to weave in and out of traffic, creating their own lanes, riding on the sidewalks, passing on the shoulders. Nothing will change, though. Pedestrian crossings? What are those? Those white lines on the street are just there for looking pretty, right? In our neighborhood, no one stops, not even when you're halfway across the street. They also seem to think pedestrian crossings are good places to park their cars. I've restrained my key-ing instinct so far, but some day, I'm going to walk by and leave them a memory of illegal parking that won't be so easy to forget as a strange white woman throwing a hissy fit in the middle of the sidewalk.

Even when Rio does selectively enforce their laws, they do it in such a way as to be quite ineffective. "We're going to be monitoring parking between streets A and B but not between C and D." So if you feel like parking illegally, just make sure you do it on the street you know the cops won't be patrolling. Last week, there was a taxi clean-up at the airport, making sure that only registered taxis could pick up passengers. Fine, great, wonderful. Except...it was only happening at one terminal! What's the point? The illegal taxis just go to the next terminal over, knowing that no one is going to bother them there, and they could go on using their rigged meters and abusive pricing strategies unhindered.

Drives me nuts!


anne said...

and so...the Olympics are WHEN in Rio???

gonna be interesting, that.

Jennifer said...

No wonder people piss in the streets in some countries.

Imagine scratching around for that illusive dollar whilst trying not to pee your pants...