First of all I must offer a big thank you to those of you who offered up captions for the photograph in the last blog – they all made us laugh. I had hoped to pick a winner, or have you pick a winner, but it seems like an impossible task, so I shall just declare you all winners, something that is easy to do when there are no prizes!
Now on with the story:
For the first time in my life Christ appears somewhere above me, looking down with a beatific smile, arms wide open in a welcoming gesture, encouraging me to join the fold and come up and see him sometime.
Who am I to turn down such an offer. The statue officially known as Christ the Redeemer and affectionately known (by me at least) as Jumbo Jesus, looks down on the City.
It seems to be visible from almost anywhere in Rio
and its effect is both mesmerising and heart warming, wrapping the City in its open arms and promising nothing but love for its inhabitants and visitors. It must surely be one of the world’s greatest monuments and/or tourist attractions, magnificent in scale, design and placement.
There are buses that take you to the top of the mountain and there are cabs, but the only real way to get there is to catch “the train” which is more like a streetcar behaving like a funicular as it struggles straight up an almost vertical mountain. There are two carriages that hold many more people than seems safe or even possible, crammed into tight rows of seats. There are long lines and passengers are counted carefully before being allowed onto the platform for boarding. This makes sure that exactly the correct number of people will fill every seat, and no one is allowed to stand. The ride takes twenty nerve racking minutes but the statue and the views at the top are worth it.
The journey down however may not be. Gordon and I have snagged the only two seats with some leg room which are at the front of the carriage immediately behind the drivers cabin. Just as the doors are about to close the driver leans out of his window and beckons to a group of friends partially hidden behind a building. Six of them jump on and squeeze themselves between Gordon, myself and the wall of the driver’s cabin. They are laughing and shouting at each other and have clearly been enjoying some legal or illegal substance. Exactly what is unclear, but the effect it has had on them is.
Unsavory is a word that might have been invented to perfectly describe this group.
There are five women and one man and we assume from their dress and their behaviour that the five women are what can be politely described as working girls. There is no polite name for the man. He is their pimp. He has obviously chosen his girls carefully in order to be able to offer something for everyone. They range from young and slim to middle aged and large, from well endowed to “which is the front and which is the back?” All are dressed cheaply in clothes that are too short and too tight, and adorned with glitter. One wears a bright pink T shirt that says appropriately
“You never find love. Love finds you”, but it fails to mention how much it costs when this particular love finds you. Judging from the wearer it won’t be expensive.
The man is dressed in black jeans and a black vest or singlet, appropriately called a “wifebeater” in the States.
He is lean, fit, muscular and scary. Acne has pitted his face with scars, his eyes are small, mean and very close together leaving little room for a squashed nose that appears to have been broken at least once.
It is hard to imagine what they have been doing up at the statue but my guess is that they weren’t looking for redemption. If they were, I doubt they found it.
There is no where for them to stand except around us, with their legs sometimes inserted between ours. They all speak loudly, often at the same time, sometimes laughing, sometimes yelling at each other. Their behaviour is erratic and worrying.
It is extremely hot in the carriage and these six people crammed into a small space are making it worse. The largest of the women must weigh 200lbs and is clearly on the wrong side of forty. There is nothing remotely attractive about her. I assume the pimp has customers for her, but it is hard to imagine who that might be and how much they would be prepared to pay. She would not seem to be a money maker unless he can charge for her by the pound. She wears a black knit mini dress that clings in all the wrong places and disappears into the many folds of flesh. She is hot and sweating which adds nothing to her overall appearance. She keeps holding the bottom of her very short dress and pulling it away from her body in an effort to release the fabric from the folds of flesh. Then she waves it about in an attempt to get air up and inside it, presumably to cool down the parts of her body that are hot. What exactly those parts are does not bear thinking about, but when you remember I am sitting down and she is standing directly in front of me, inches away from my face, I do not need to tell you that the assault on all of my senses is not pleasant.
When she is not attempting to create a breeze she is gently caressing the pimps bulging arm muscles, batting her long eyelashes and licking her sweaty lips with a fat pink tongue, trying desperately to look seductively at him. Unsurprisingly it has no affect. He ignores her, which is pretty hard to do in this confined space. I wish I could manage it.
Periodically fights break out between him and one of the women. They yell at each other and then he starts punching the woman. At this point the 200lb woman gets between them to try and calm the man down. When that doesn’t work, she startlingly slaps him hard across the face. His attention then moves to her, his eyes glinting with danger. But she continues to caress his arm which seems to calm him.
Gordon and I keep giving each other looks desperately wanting the journey to be over. We both feel that things could get out of hand and we would then be in the middle of it all. But nothing prepares us for what happens next.
A couple of flying cockroaches suddenly arrive through the windows. Being attracted to trash, they make a beeline for the women and one of them dives into the overly backcombed hair of the woman wearing the pink T shirt. She screams. Two of the other girls scream with her. The others laugh.
The pimp lifts up his tank top and pulls out a gun from the waistband of his trousers and tries to take aim at the flying cockroaches. This is perhaps taking his role as protector of his girls to extremes. He is waving the gun all over the place, following the flight of the cockroaches, the barrel passing in front of our faces several times. The entire compartment goes deadly quiet, with the exception of the girls who are now all screaming. I have never had a gun pointed in my direction before and I can tell you that I hope I never will again. It is a sobering experience producing a deadly calm on the outside and sheer panic on the inside.
The 200lb woman then leans across and slaps the pimp again. She may have got away with that the first time, but a second time is pushing her luck. This time his eyes flash with real anger, and his thin little mouth tightens with aggression. He thrusts his face into hers and points the gun directly at the woman’s stomach, holding the barrel inches away from her. Unlike the cockroaches, this is not a target he is likely to miss. She spits out an obscenity at him and hits his arm away. The gun is now pointing directly at me. I don’t move a muscle. Correction. I can’t move a muscle.
The offending cockroach chooses that moment to extract itself from the woman’s hair and fly out of the window. The girls start laughing, the man tucks the gun back in his waistband and it is all over as quickly as it started. The large prostitute then leans over, puckers her lips into the most horrifying shape and gives the pimp a huge sucking kiss on the mouth, making the most disgusting slobbering noises at the same time. He stands there completely unmoved. I on the other hand have a strong desire to throw up.
The rest of the journey carries on in much the same manner as before with the exception that the handle of the gun can now be seen sticking out of the pimp’s jeans.
Christ the Redeemer has a big job on his hands. Not just with them, but with me. I don’t care how far he stretches out his arms, I am not going back to him. He has to redeem himself first.
And if that true story didn’t scare you enough, maybe today’s passenger(s) of the week might. This is a Serbian couple who now live in San Francisco, but we can hardly blame the city for that. It is probably best that we do not know how this couple made enough money to travel on Seabourn, but we would like to know who advised them on suitable attire for the trip
(Ed. Note: I realise you will all be disappointed at the lack of photos of our Brazilian tram mates. However, I would point out that as Andrew surreptitiously raised his camera, I nervously pointed out the gun handle protruding from Senor Dude’s waistband. You may be a worthy audience but even you lot ain’t worth THAT risk!)