Letter to the Editor, by Brian Begnoche
RIO DE JANEIRO – Is Rio ready to host international events like the World Cup and the Olympic Games? I have my doubts. Last week, at the 24-hour Zona Sul supermarket off Plaza General Osório, Ipanema, I almost had a gun pulled on me by “security” for relieving myself in the presence of my girlfriend in the unisex bathroom.
I had invited my namorada to wait inside the bathroom with me due to a creepy guy behind her in line. Not ten seconds into my flow, there was an aggressive rap on the door. “Tô mijando. Peraí,” I said, voice raised. But, the belligerent knocking escalated until it had thoroughly spooked my girlfriend and finally provoked me to curse savagely, using every Portuguese expletive yet available to me. The barrage ceased. I finished my business, washed up, and flung the door open.
“Quem estava batendo nessa porta?” I growled. The knocking had drawn attention; onlookers stood wide-eyed. The creep responded by sheepishly pointing outside. I marched out, met by shouts from a Zona-Sul “security guard”. I responded in kind. Then, he was backing away, hand on his gun, insisting on a five-meter buffer while screaming, “Não chega encima de mim!” amongst a deluge of insults.
Since when is a 50-kilo Brazilian woman and a beach-dressed gringo carrying nothing cause to threaten the use of firearms?
The manager who timidly and tardily crept out from the frozen crowd couldn’t answer that question. His singular concern was saving face. As the moron continued slurring my girlfriend to the point of tears, the manager led us away patronizingly, effectively implying we were in the wrong. “Vou tomar providências amanhã,” he flapped before leaving us on the sidewalk down the street.
My girlfriend urged me to forget about it and walk away. “But, he’s not going to do anything,” I protested. “Pois é,” she confirmed. After a few minutes of simmering, I decided that the vague assurance of “taking measures” didn’t cut it.
Storming past the armed dolt, I entered Zona Sul and all but collared the manager. Knowing his promise was empty, I gave him a bit more incentive to act by informing him I would write to the papers about the incident. Through shrugs and evasive glances, he essentially confirmed my suspicion that the “security guard” is actually an under-the-table thug contracted to protect that street’s establishments with no official connection to the Zona Sul supermarkets and no license to carry a gun.
I estimate that at least a quarter of that specific Zona Sul’s clientele are foreigners. As such, I recommended he change his business practices. Most gringos wouldn´t take kindly to being publicly threatened and berated for entering a bathroom with a person from the opposite sex.
When I revisited the establishment a week later, the goon was still there, soured to see me. The only difference I noticed was that his piece was no longer visible on his person. Not exactly what I had in mind, but it’s a start.
Will Rio be ready? Possibly. But, Brazilians must start demanding better for themselves.
Rio de Janeiro