Stories from the Concrete Jungle – I Got Hustled

Andrew Poirier - Brazil


April 11, 2014

It was a normal day in the city of Curitiba. The streets were filled with all manner of folk which created a soft clamor that bounced and echoed lightly off the walls of the towering buildings that encroached on either side. I was walking to meet friends at one of the many bus stations in Centro and as usual there were people selling their wares along the sides of the street. Unless it’s Sunday I usually won’t go “window” shopping (having a budget and all), but today was different. Today the products came to me.

I was approached by the most adorable little girl I have ever seen. (Except for perhaps Nola, my second cousin, the princess of everything good and bland in this fair land…) She was dressed in a pink sweater with green pants and overlarge sneakers, and she looked determined. She demanded “Você quer um bolinho?” “Do you want a candy?” I knew I was meeting with friends later so it sounded like a good idea so I replied. “Quero. Quanto para cada bolinho?” “Yes I would. How much for each?” She didn’t reply instantly, so I plowed ahead telling her that I wanted 3, but I only had a 10 real bill so we would have to make change. Normally, the going price for street candy is R$1 or less.

So I’ve given her the R$10 and ask for the change but she quickly replies “Opa, minha mãe ta me chamar. Tchau!” “Oh! My mom’s calling me. Bye!” And she was gone before I could say “Que?”

I got cheated. By a pipsqueak no higher than my hip no less. But what if this had been done by a little boy, or a grown woman? I would probably be telling this story in a different tone than light remembrance. In all likely hood this would be a highly stressed account of a gringo being robbed followed by an “in depth look at the socioeconomic factors that lead to such vagabond behavior.” As if I could get more acerbic.

Though I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing, I’m not here to conduct a comprehensive study on the Brazilian people. I’m here to tell stories of my experience and though some people may say that that is taking the easy way out, I disagree. We are taught throughout high school and our whole lives to analyze our life experiences; to take the raw data of our senses and attempt to refine it into something piquant to say. I think it is sometimes good to let emotions run without refinement, and for the rest of the “Stories from the Concrete Jungle” series I will attempt to do just that.

And so I will tell it to you like I told it to my friends: “I got hustled.”

Andrew Poirier