Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Ping Pong with the Risk of Losing an Eye

A rainy day in Rio de Janeiro is like the Grand Prix with obstacles.

There is the foot traffic. All Cariocas are out with their umbrellas, even if it not technically raining in the opinion of us foreigners. If it had rained at one point in the day and no sun is out, there is a Carioca with an umbrella.

There are also sects of umbrella people. You have the group that are willing to spend more than R$10 for rain protection and the group that only buy from the carmelo (illegal stands) for R$10 or R$5 depending on durability and design. The tackier the umbrella the more expensive it is, don't even ask about the ones with the hooked handles. It's all about fashion in this city.

The thing is that the cheap ones break. There comes a point in your Rio de Janeiro life where you say "Fuck it" and use the freaking broken Umbrella. It really only rains a fraction of the time here and you just can't be bothered to waste any more coconut water money on another ugly umbrella. That is why you find the broken umbrella people. They are the ones walking around with the metal umbrella frames sticking out, threatening to attack anyone not paying attention .

Seriously, it's like ping pong with the risk of losing an eye. Since I'm about height level with most Brazilians' umbrellas I actually prefer to go out in the rain with my glasses. While raindrops are a put out, I consider protective eyewear a smart choice.

So take any given rainy day in Rio de Janeiro. You come out to go to the store or take your kids to the store and you are faced with many things. For starters there's the incredable traffic. Secondly there's the bad drivers mixed in with the bad drivers who don't normally drive (it's raining so they bust out the car to go tot work). Add in the assholes (about 90% of the above mentioned drivers) and you have yourself a lot of hellish traffic.

Then you add in the umbrella people. They come big and small. Yes, people let their obnoxious children attempt to walk around a busy city with an umbrella that is twice their size. I think it's quite obvious to say I'm not in that group but I would like to point out that their children are normally wearing raincoats anyway as children under 10 yrs old can't seem to use an umbrella for it's actual function. It's more like an annoying kite.

All in all I go out in the rain in Rio ready for war. It's me against the cars, motorcycles, broken umbrellas, and obnoxious toddlers who don't belong to me. With this comes an understanding of time. When in Rio de Janeiro, leave a half an hour early when it's raining people.

Oh and for all of you who think that you'll just call a cab, yeah like I'm that stupid! Good luck. If it is actually raining, instead of spit style spinkles, there will not be a taxi in sight. You may get lucky but I prefer to be realistic. Glasses, wellies (for the Brits), and my good umbrella. With the kids it's wellies and raincoats.

If you can, just stay at home with a good book and some Brazilian coffee.

You'd think a tropical country would be more prepared for rain, wouldn't you.


  1. I bless the rain here. It is the Lord's method of washing Rio.

    Recall Carnaval 2009? Not a drop of rain for nearly two weeks, and combined with the total lack of sanicans it was, how should I say, a stench never to be forgotten throughout the City and resulted in one of the best posters I have seen (the international style "no pissing in the street" poster).

    Being from Seattle, where there is much less rain but it seems to last for months on end, and everything stays wet from September to June, I don't mind the rain here. It rains, but then within a few hours or less it is over and everything is dry again. Sure, there are a few days on end when the sun disappears, but after so many years in Seattle not seeing the sun for seemingly months at a time, well, that is what books are for, right?

    Best of all, rainy days are ideal for bill paying, buying lottery tickets (creep free!), or doing anything that otherwise means standing in a line or enduring a crowd. Other than going out at night, a rainy night in Rio is best spent at home hoping the power doesn't go out.

  2. I like it when it rains here, but I get what you mean, Rachel. It can be very trying, dodging all of the umbrella and broken umbrella people alike. Here's what annoys me about a Rio rainy day: if you happen to get caught outside without an umbrella, the natural thing to do is try to make your way back home using the many convenient storefront overhangs that line most main streets. This way, you really only get drenched when you have to cross the street. The thing is, cariocas will also try to use the overhangs when they HAVE an umbrella! So, in that relatively narrow corridor of covered sidewalk area, you spend much of the time dodging the umbrella-edge spikes without the relative protection of having your own umbrella to fend them off. It's the gauntlet of eye-poking. Come on! if you have an umbrella, stay out in the rain and leave the overhangs to people that don't!

  3. I share PTRio's rain embrace for similar reasons: less people to get in the way while doing numerous things. I also love it that bums and public space extortion artists, like those I will guard your car dudes, just seem to vanish when it rains. Since I am also a fan of The Weather Channel I try to schedule outings with punctual prone friends for rainy days or nights and thus avoid parking hassles plus receive better service due to near empty venues. Reduced neighboring table chatter is an added bonus as well. It is important though that rain is forecasted for the period prior to when you want to go out for this to work. So if you want to go out in the evening then it should rain during the late afternoon hence keeping people and their vehicles home. If not you could end up in gritty hell: stuck in a packed venue where people don't want to leave because of the rain. It's chatter hell I tell you.
    Anyway according to The Weather Channel those of you in Rio will not be able to use my genius strategy this week.


    BTW Rachel how tall are you?

  4. Rachel, what a lovely blog. I ended up reading about 10 of your posts. I'm definitely coming back for more.