LAPT Grand Final: Baby you can drive my car
"If I ever became fabulously rich, the first thing I'd do is a get a driver."
Brad Willis, Donnie Peters, Kristy Arnett and I were crammed across the back seat of a compact four-door, make, model and year unknown. Brad let his remark hang in the tight confines of our car as he stared out the window at dozens of other cars that were stopped at a traffic light. We were careening through the side streets of São Paulo and conditions were cramped but we weren't complaining.
We weren't complaining because we weren't driving.
Back streets gave way to a six-lane freeway that approached the Octavio Frias de Oliveira bridge. I watched with morbid fascination as a man on a moped buzzed Felipe's side of our car, nearly clipping himself on the mirror in the process. He white-lined (or lane-split) between us and another car, zigged in front of us, zagged past a box truck a few feet ahead, then nearly laid down his bike as he zipped in between two more cars at a nearly-impossible angle.
"The mortality rate on those things must be high," Brad mused.
It was a nonchalant comment but one that crossed my mind at almost the same time. It's hard to imagine driving in this city on a regular basis. Spending any amount of time on the roads is enough to make you want to fly or walk everywhere.
Thankfully we had Brazilian poker pro and gracious local host Felipe Ramos on our side. From the front seat, he was directing the driver - his driver - how to get us back to the WTC Sheraton, our home for the next five nights.
We flitted through a maze of seemingly identical twisting, turning streets, passing car after car after car in the process. Felipe told horror stories of an unfortunate side effect of Brazil's economic boom of the last decade: traffic. 30-minute jaunts become 90-minute sojourns at the wrong time of day. When storms flood the street, those 90-minute sojourns can turn into epic journeys that would give Odysseus a run for his money.
"I have a weather service that sends me a text if it will rain in the next 20 minutes," Felipe explained. "If you get caught driving in a storm it can take you three hours to get anywhere."
At least the flooding is only occasional. A bigger menace is the army of white-lining "moto-boys" that make deliveries across this sprawling metropolis at all hours of the day. One lane change at the wrong moment can result in a very, very bad day for everyone involved. Most of all for the moto-boy.
The moto-boys must feel little choice but to white-line. Congestion in São Paulo is so bad that the city government introduced driving rationing a few years ago. As explained to me by Brazilian blogger Sergio Prado, every weekday one-fifth of the city's fleet of vehicles is prohibited from being on the roads during morning and evening rush hour, depending on the last number of the vehicle's license plate.
In the U.S., there would be mutiny over such a plan. This, of course, is Brazil. What happens if you have to work on one of those days, as most people invariably do?
"Find another way," Sergio said with a shrug.
The traffic might stop or frustrate Brad or me. Nothing, it seems, can stop or frustrate a Brazilian.