Photo by wynand van niekerk
When I used to visit the UK while living in Brazil, I sometimes found myself doing what I would do in Bahia – like slapping the side of a London bus that was pulling away from the stop in hopes that it would let me on (not a chance, and I found myself stared at). Now that I live here, I am becoming rapidly acculturated. I even think 14 degrees (Celsius) is mild! However, a recent experience has shown that I haven’t stopped being (or acting) Brazilian in Blighty.
When my daughter was visiting me in Birmingham, we went out for an Indian meal with an old friend who wanted to meet her. My friend had advised me to use a particular car park, so when we got there I pulled out the ticket as the gate spat it out, and popped it under the windscreen. I think. As we were walking away from the car, I realised that it wasn’t a “pay and display” but a “walk and pay” system, so I went back for the ticket. It was nowhere to be found. Neither my daughter nor I could remember what I’d done with it after I pulled it from the gate, although I was sure I had stuck it under the windscreen. We tore the car apart. No ticket to be seen. Finally, I resigned myself to paying the full fee – about £16 – and we walked glumly to the restaurant to meet up with my friend.
Hours later, cheered by a varied and not-too-pricey meal at Jimmy Spices, the three of us returned to the car park. While my daughter went back to the car to make a last-ditch effort to retrieve the *&(£$% ticket, my friend and I tried to find someone I could pay to let us leave. The glassed-in office was dark and empty, and for a moment I thought we would be there all night, but then I noticed a light gleaming through a crack in an inner door. Instinct took over and I suddenly slapped on the glass. Instantly, a man sprang out and opened the outer door to see what the fuss was about. “My ticket has vanished!” I cried with all the scene-chewing passion of a Brazilian soap star. “Here, take this,” he blurted, handing me a ticket. “It’ll let you out.” I was confused at first. How much would I have to pay? I tried to validate the ticket but the machine refused to recognise its existence. Finally, I decided to take a chance, said good-night to my friend and drove up to the barrier. The ticket went in, the barrier went up, and my daughter and I drove through. Free of charge. When I told my friend he couldn’t believe it. I still can’t. I wouldn’t try it again.