So far everyone’s only heard the good things about my life here. Every day is an adventure, I have amazing friends, my job is going well (post on that to come, I promise), but every city has its flaws. Just like Londoners love to hate the weather and New Yorkers love to hate tourists, Paulistas love to hate the metro. (Traffic also, but as I don’t drive, I can’t comment too much on that).
Alright, any New Yorker who has been in the Bedford L station at rush hour knows what it’s like to wait for 3 trains to pass you by before you can even board. And by board, I mean, push your entire body into a train while a bunch of angry commuters glare at you for trying to get to work on time.
In Tokyo, so many people take public transit, they actually hire a guy to physically pack people in like sardines on each train.
But neither NYC or Tokyo has anything on São Paulo when it comes to metro rage. (If this isn’t already a term, I’m coining it right now.)
I’m not going to comment on which cities have more crowded subways, because (a) I’m too lazy to look it up and (b) that’s not my point. My point is, São Paulo metros are fucking crowded. But it’s not the crowds that make it so unbearable. It’s the people’s attitudes. Brazilians might be the nicest people on earth when you’re chatting at a bar or making out during Carnaval, but put them on a metro and the claws come out.
When someone first explained this to me, I shrugged it off. My experiences in the São Paulo metro had been at non-peak hours, and the only thing I’d noticed was how much cleaner it was. (It almost looks like a mall down there!) As a former New Yorker, I was sure there was no “crowd” situation I couldn’t handle. I thought of the many experiences I’ve had with rude people on the subways in New York who refused to wait until people exit the train to board, the people who stand on the wrong side of the escalator, and the people who refuse to move in to the center of the train once boarded. It sucks, and it pisses you off, and you arrive at your destination in a bad mood. Tapping back into the “I can handle anything, I’m a New Yorker” mentality I had left behind, I figured this would be a walk in the park.
I was wrong.
To understand what I mean, first take those “many experiences” and apply them to every single person on the train, then multiply it by rush hour. Think about that.
Nobody cares if this is your stop, or if you say com licença. Nobody is going to wait until you exit before pushing their way in to the train. And definitely, nobody cares if they are breathing on you or even standing on top of you. My first day taking the train at rush hour, I needed a police officer to push a man to the side so I could make my way out of the mosh pit without missing my stop.
So how does one deal with a commute that feels more like a punk rock concert than a ride on a train? Personally, I cope exactly the same way I cope in Los Angeles when I’m stuck on the parking lot that is the 405 freeway: Heavy bass.
Anyway, I still love you SP. It’s gonna take a bit more than some metro rage to kick me out.