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A damn payphone

Day 5

I have to say, Brazilians are pretty interesting.  To be more accurate, Cariocas (residents of Rio) are interesting people.  I have to say I am left with the impression that they seem to be pretty uninhibited.

I decided to take a walk down the beach road at around 10am.  As I strolled down the pavement, I noticed Cariocas of every shape, size and colour jogging past me.  What really took me by surprise was the fact that many wore clothing that left very little to the imagination.  Even the grannies that whizzed past me every now and then.  People that would be termed 'obese' ambled along with just a pair of speedos or bikini bottoms, their body parts flapping about, seeming not to have a care in the world.  And no one bats an eyelid.  Apart from me, it seems.  Got to say, I had to admire them for their...bravery.  I was too shocked to take a proper photo at the time, but later, I managed to sneak one in while trying to be discreet.  If you look at the pic below, well this scene is a lot more erm..conservative, but have a look at the older guy towards the right of the shot sporting nothing more than a speedo, and you have an idea of what I mean.

Of course I'm having a great time, not to say of course that there aren't minor hiccups every now and then, the most obvious one being the language barrier.  The only Spanish or Portuguese I know are phrases from my travel guide, and a couple of words I wrote down that I figured might come in useful some time.

Still, seemingly trivial things that can cause a lot of frustration.  I'm backpacking completely on my own - partly because none of my friends could be bothered to sort themselves out and book flights, and mostly because I wanted to go solo -  but one of my friends from home has been in Sao Paulo for the past five months, on a university exchange programme for one semester.  Of course, when he heard I was making my way to this continent, we made plans to meet up, and in the process he gave me his Brazilian mobile number.  Now I haven't got a phone here, so I figured the easiest way to get in touch would be to call him using one of the numerous payphones that are dotted around the city.  Shouldn't be a problem right?  Except for the fact that everything is in Portuguese.

I spoke to the lady at the hostel check-in counter about how I could go about getting a calling card.  'Oh, that's simple, just walk to the nearest shop, ask for an 'Oi' card, go to the pay phone, put in the card and then dial the code, followed by your friend's number,' she casually instructed.

Sounded easy enough right?  I went to the nearest shop, made my way to the payphone nearest to my hostel, put the card in the slot, dialled my friend's number, and heard a tone that I was pretty sure meant that the call wasn't going through.

So I went back to the hostel lady with the news that it didn't work.  'But, all you have to put the card in and dial the number...?'  She said it as though using a payphone should surely be one of the easiest things the world, even easier than a newborn learning to walk for the first time.

Wondering if maybe I had forgotten some important step the last time, I returned to the payphone to try it again.  Still nothing.  Once again, I went back to the hostel and had her walk me through every single step.  She generally had an aloof, carefree manner, and judging by the way she s l o w l y went through this lecture on 'How to Use a Brazilian Payphone',  I felt as though I was severely mentally retarded.

So I went back to the payphone.  And dialled my friend's number.  And redialled.  And redialled.  And redialled.  Still nothing.  I checked the time.  I'd spent the better part of the last hour trying to get through to my friend.  And I wasn't any closer to reaching him.  I literally felt like a dumbass.  How could I not understand how to use this payphone?  The mid-day sun was beating down on me pretty furiously, so my t-shirt at this point was drenched with sweat.  The few passers-by that I had stopped appeared not to know how to use the payphone, which both bewildered and infuriated me.  'How can they not know how to use a payphone in their own city?' I muttered to myself under my breath.  After unsuccessfully trying to reach through to my friend for what felt like the thousandth time, I put the phone back on the receiver, stared at the number I scribbled in my journal, surveyed my sweat-drenched shirt, and I then glared at the payphone with 100% fury.

Of course, that achieved absolutely zero, so after scowling at the stupid payphone with one last look of contempt, I shuffled off back to my hostel, muttering a host of profanities.  How the hell could I not work a damn payphone? It's a PAYPHONE!  At that point, I swore to NEVER NEVER use a payphone in this country ever again, unless the goal was to give myself hypertension.  I logged on to Facebook, messaged my friend who was already on the way from Sao Paulo to visit me, and told him if he wanted to find me he can come look for me on the beach.
Fortunately, we did manage to meet up in the end, and now I can look back on the payphone incident and laugh.  But oh wow, that thing really ruined my mood that morning.

Anyway, a day or two later, I realised that the specific payphone I kept going back to was actually faulty and I wasn't the one making a mistake.  As luck would have it, that was the only one that I tried at the time.  Ha..

I've had a lot of fun in Rio, it is definitely the kind of place I could stay for a while, but I want to see other places around the country and so in the next few days I plan to head to my next destination.  Stay tuned for the next update.


Balanced Melting Pot said...

Oh wow, I'm not sure how I would've felt in that situation. It makes perfect sense that you would feel frustrated and then to find out that the machine was the one with the problem. I have similar issues here with using my debit card. What I've realized is that for no rhyme or reason, debit card machines at certain stores will stop working from time to time. When that happens, I jut make sure to have another form of payment handy. Otherwise, they will swipe my card 3 times and then I won't be able to use it for the rest of the day. So, as long as you stick around long enough, you learn the ins and outs of places.

kiki said...

So funny...on balance melting pot she mentioned the same thing about the lack of clothing, in her case venezuela.. Maybe that has to do with the weather. Also had to laugh b/c I had same problem with calling card and payphone when i visited brazil.

Ms Beauty Soul said...

You are right about Brazilians being kinda free and not giving a damn what people think... When I was on the beach wearing a tankini that definitely marked me out as a tourist. Brazilians kept asking me why I was wearing "so many clothes"

As for the phone thing... I'm sooo attached to my phone... I like having the option of calling and being called so I always take an unlocked phone and getting a chip wherever I am. Obviously with the language barriers things can be hard sometimes so I just get someone at the shop to set it up for me so I'm ready to roll...

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