Every morning I take a chapa (public mini-bus) into work. I walk two blocks from my house and wait on the main road along the sea. The wall separating the road from the beach fell down in that spot a couple months ago, so I enjoy an uninterrupted view of the sand and water. The weather has been cooling down lately, so I don’t sweat anymore while I wait.
There are two chapa routes that run along this road. Chapas for my route seem to run less frequently than the other route. Sometimes I wait up to fifteen minutes, which is fine on a pleasant day. Not so fine on a rainy day.
This morning I didn’t even have to wait. I barely got up to the main road when a chapa I needed pulled up. It was empty, and I got the front seat. (Sitting in the back can be squishingly uncomfortable most days.) I said “Bom dia” to the driver, and off we went, shining sea on my left and cool breeze blowing across my face.
“Howah you baby!” the cobredor (doorman) shouted. “Oh, he is not addressing me,” I thought. Then I felt a tap on my shoulder, “Baby! Howah you!” I turned around and said, in English because he had addressed me in English, “I am not baby!” That shut him up, but I’m sure he didn’t really understand what I said. After other people got on, I realized I should have explained to him in Portuguese that it’s not respectful to call a strange woman “baby”. But I wasn’t going to turn around and explain that in front of everyone else on the chapa as it would draw too much attention.
At one point I realized the music we were listening to was English. Some cheesy hip-hop. Some guy singing about how how he wanted to change her name to his name and he knew she wanted the same. The next song was about “mother-f***ing ho’s”. No wonder the cobredor thinks it’s okay to call a white woman “baby”. I wanted to say something to the driver about the music, how it was offensive. I don’t know why I didn’t.
It reminded me of the English song I heard blaring from a radio vendor’s stall in the market the other day, repeatedly singing/shouting, “Shut the f*** up!” It reminded me of all the little neighborhood cinemas that show kung fu and horror movies. When I walk past those, all I hear is yelling and explosions. It’s mostly children inside. It reminded me of the porn someone tried to sell me on the street the other day when I was looking through a stack of pirated movies.
What happened to the sun, sand, sea, and cool breeze? This is not how I wanted to start my day.