I was in Brazil a couple of weeks ago and it wasn’t for the Olympic Games because doing nothing is not an Olympic event. Yet. I would qualify on the first try. Probably end up with silver.
My colleague and I were attempting to return to the airport after the shortest time any two persons have ever spend in Sao Paulo. The distance was a mere 25 km. It took us about 1 hour and 47 minutes to cover half of it. Then I stopped counting. And it wasn’t just because of the traffic.
P wasn’t very talkative after the first half hour. It’s nothing strange because men don’t speak as much as some other lovely creatures on the planet. We actually appreciate moments of silence and they never become uncomfortable. But this time he was kind of uncomfortable. (Let’s call “he” P, shall we?) I couldn’t really figure out why, until he asked the taxi driver to find a service station so he could relief himself. It suddenly became very clear. We’ve all been there. Having an urgent, unplanned need to pee. It’s universal. The shuffling on the seat. The shortness of breath. The concentration. The quiet desperation. The teary eyes. It was evident that P didn’t go at the hotel and I never bothered to remind him because well, he’s sixty. Wisdom is suppose to come with age.
The problem is that it would be easier to find a unicorn in heat or a humble Micheal Phelps than a service station next to a highway in Sao Paulo. And I’m sure if we did manage to find that unicorn, P would’ve exchanged it for a place to pee. Both of us were scouring the sides of the highway like gazelle on the Serengeti looking out for a lion. Nothing. Another half an hour passed. Things were about to get interesting.
I turned around and saw an expression that can only be defined as pure desperation on his face. I think he was about to cry. Or piss his pants. Or both. He was starting to touch himself. It was my turn to become uncomfortable. Another fifteen minutes and there was still no toilet in sight.
He started coercing the driver to the side of the highway, implying the crossing of an uncountable number of lanes. Filled with non-moving cars. Time was ticking away very quickly and the last time I checked, I wasn’t important enough to have a plane wait for me. We reached an overpass and P almost screamed at the driver to stop. Right there. On the frigging highway.
Old man P fell out of the taxi and ran/stumbled/crawled to the closest wall he could find to commence the task of urinating. It’s not as easy as you might think because even the most primal things become complicated as we get older. Especially if you have the added pressure of someone watching. And waiting. In anticipation.
As I turned my focus to the cars in front, I saw the police car hovering a few meters away. I gulped, especially when the policeman decided to stop and get out. He turned out to be the biggest policeman I’ve ever seen. I didn’t realise they made shirts for hippos. Maybe I should rather compliment the seamstress who fixed those buttons, as they were able to hold back the Hoover dam of fat.
My first thought was that he wanted to pee as well. Or maybe consume a small child. He didn’t do either of those things. He was not impressed. I knew this because he started shouting like a deranged Portuguese One Direction fan at their final concert. Public urination is against the law even though the canal running alongside the highway smells like a sewage tank. Isn’t it ironic?
Whatever he said, released a flood of nervous energy in the taxi. The driver was waving his hands in the general direction of P whilst screaming back at the policeman. I’m no expert but I know this: Screaming back at a person of authority is not going to resolve the situation. My theory proved to be correct as the person of authority turned red in the face and was storming towards our taxi. I say stormed but in reality is was more like a waddle. Or a sluggish attempt at movement. Irrespective of how he moved, the point is he did and I started sweating in places I didn’t even knew I had pores. The driver told me in broken English to call my colleague. Urgently. The problem with me shouting at P to tuck-it-away-and-zip-it-up, certainly didn’t help his ability to do so. It actually made things worse, stage fright was setting in.
And there we were, four actors stuck in the most bizarre play you’ve ever seen. The bouncing blob-cop, the terrorized taxi-driver, the pissing passenger and the guy who desperately wanted to catch a plane, as he didn’t want to end up as someone’s bitch in a Brazilian prison.
The situation reached critical mass. A crescendo of chaos. And P still couldn’t finish his pee. I started rubbing my wrists in order to get some circulation going in case the cuffs were going to be too tight. The policeman was still edging closer and I was thrilled to see how slow certain people actually move. He was so close I could smell his lunch. Or was that the driver’s nervous fart? The driver stopped talking because he passed out from the sheer effort and anxiety. I kept on shouting like Wade van Niekerk’s mom as he ran that final straight to gold. Dogs were howling. Cars stopped. People took photos. Kids cried. All of it useless because P’s hold-it muscles simply didn’t work anymore.
I was busy texting the Wife, informing her of my delay and instructing her to post bail money, when P finally got into the taxi. I revived the driver with a hard slap across the head and he sped off immediately. I think I struck the nerve connecting his brain and left leg. It was instantaneous and not a moment to soon. I was looking right into the eyes of a fat, red-faced, Brazilian policeman waving a thick finger in my window.
Nobody said anything until we reached the airport. We dropped P off first, as I reached the eff-it-stage of travelling. When I finally reached my boarding gate and my heartbeat and adrenaline levels returned to normal, I realised that I shook the unwashed hand of a man who shook himself.
I was only disgusted for a millisecond and then shrugged it off because there are worse things to happen to a person in Brazil.