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.

Brian Begnoche
Rio de Janeiro


  1. Hey Loser,

    Just a couple things I couldn’t help but think of as I read your article
    You are right in one aspect; the so called security guard did in fact make a false accusation towards you and your girlfriend. However, at what point did you think that becoming angry and yelling would make light of the situation? What if it was a child that was in desperate need of a toilet that was pounding on the door? None the less, had you not reacted with such rage and aggression about such a minuscule urinal interruption do you think the guard would have been so hostile?
    The best way to look at a conflict situation is from the opposite perspective (Conflict Resolution 101). How often do you think this guard has to put up with inebriated, doped up, hooligans, perhaps even other young couples that are in search of a quick copulation session in a unisex restroom of a gas station where their parents won’t find them? I would guess this lowly guard has to put up with quite a lot. Or even the fact that he solely has to guard a gas station from potential crimes and robberies, probably severely underpaid, making less than what your little cousin makes in the U.S as a neighborhood newspaper delivery boy.
    I would also like to say on behalf of other foreigners living abroad, to consider how you represent Americans living here in Brazil and how just because you feel personally violated while going to the bathroom may not be a just cause for you making a scene in a gas station nor writing an article about it on regional news site.

  2. WOW….you are a complete tool!!! Stop making Americans look bad! You are the reason we have such a bad reputation in foreign countries! Go back to the U.S if your soo unhappy here!

    PS: Peeing in front of you girlfriend is absolutely DISGUSTING!!!

  3. Henry b couldn’t be more right. Condescending nonsense of which there is far too much of in this city. Get over your smalltown smallminded ‘how dare they’ attitude and start respecting the people of the country you are in and you’ll be much better off.

  4. Brian –

    Did you bring your six-shooter to Brazil with you? You should have challenged the guard to a showdown at High noon at General Osorio. Twenty paces and all that. O Globo would be all over it.

    I personally prefer to shop at Pao De Azucar. All their guards take classes in how to deal with foreign shoppers. They are all gentlemen.

    If only all Brazilians thought like you Brian, then this really would be the country of the future.

    Your wisdom and insight is lost in a sea of how you Americans call ‘dum-asses’.

  5. 1. The security guard started the entire confrontation. He did not identify himself or the problem when knocking on the bathroom door. That is completely unprofessional.
    2. If Brian was upset, he likely would have calmed down if it turned out to be a child in need of a toilet.
    3. Security guards and police officers are supposed to break up and regulate conflicts, as well as enforce rules. In this case, a rule may have been broken. But, the security guard started a conflict unnecessarily. He could have dealt with the situation by identifying himself at the door and saying that two people cannot be in the stall simultaneously. When first confronting Brian he could have been calm and told him the rule and not to break it again.
    4. Even if Brian didn’t behave calmly, many Americans, Brazilians and people around the world would have behaved the same way. An armed and well-trained security guard should be able to diffuse this situation in a jiffy. This security guard didn’t because he a) wasn’t well-trained (and shouldn’t be carrying a firearm for yet another reason) or b) was frustrated with his job.
    5. If the security guard is frustrated with his job, I suggest he find another line of work. It’s not Brian’s job to be polite. Many customers are not polite. Many of my clients are rude as hell. If he broke a rule, great. The rule should be enforced in an appropriate manner, as described above.
    6. Lame ex-pats conflate cultural relativism with “when in Rome be a d-bag by always siding with the local in any confrontation”. The second problem with this is that you forget there is no one Brazilian reaction to this situation. It’s not like Brian broke some long-held taboo and is offending an entire nation.

    If you were using a Wal-Mart toilet in the states, England, France, etc., would you want a security guard to be carrying an unlicensed firearm and bang on the door without identifying himself?

    I’ve seen many, many trained, professional cops in my hometown deal with belligerent people. They often don’t even raise their voice. They clearly state what’s going on in an assertive tone. They avoid conflict, they dont’ cause it.

    Just because you are a foreigner doesn’t mean you can’t be right. I think the people who make Americans look bad are people who fail to accept that they are individuals who can expect reasonable standards of contact from other human beings. At the very least we should expect people to do their jobs. This security guard did his very poorly.

    The only think intercultural about this situation is the fact that, unfortunately, this guard was carrying an unlicensed firearm. That may be more common here, but I have no stat to back that up.

    Even if that’s the case, it’s reasonable to think that’s ridiculous and protest against it, should about it, etc. It may get you killed do to so, but it’s not WRONG.

    If Brian were a Mexican dealing with some guard in California, in the exact same situation, all of you lame liberal know-nothing ex-pats would be up in arms about how Mexicans are unjustly suspected of wrong-doing.

    In every case where I’ve seen what I consider ridiculous behavior here in Rio, I’ve asked myself “Maybe I should go home because I’m a foreigner and I don’t know how to get along here.” Then I survey 5 Brazilians and find out they feel the way I do.


  6. Hey Brian, you are a complete idiot.

    What is the security guard supposed to think, if you enter the bathroom with your girl..? You probably looked like some gringo sex-tourist trying to get laid.

    Why couldn’t your girl wait outside of the restroom..? She likes to watch you take a leak..? You got some issues man.

  7. Brian,

    I’m sure it was an unfortunate situation you found yourself in but this type of incident is by far becoming the norm. Your assumption of weather Rio is up to holding events like the Olympics and the World Cup is spot on. The marketing machine that portrays Rio as the South American Eden is purely fabrication.

    Rio has to be the most violent city on the face of the earth and when tourists visit they are in for a real culture shock when they hear the shooting of guns on a Friday evening advertising the narcotics have entered the favela.

    Rio has an open drainage system and if the downpour is heavy enough which is almost always, the sewage which is also attached to the drainage system overflows on to the streets, the locals are use to this because they are born into it. Then I ask myself “What are we to expect for a third world country?”

    A few years back I remember hearing about two buildings collapsing killing the residents while they were asleep, the enquiry found it was due to incorrect sand cement mixture. What no one pointed out was the building had been passed by government inspectors and had been in use for several years. I there fore ask, what other building were built by the same company. I sure would not like to make a trip down to Rio only to be sent home in a body bag.

    Conclusion: If you are thinking of going to the Olympics or World cup, think again or increase your life insurance for someone else to collect when you are deceased!



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