(I hate to generalize in reference to an entire population, but I'm going to have to today to avoid the use of "not all, but the majority or at least a large majority of" three million times in order to make my point here. I am entirely aware of the fact that generalizations breed stereotypes and there is no way to make broad, sweeping statements and have them true for every person. So please begin reading with this in mind, okay? It's just my experience. I know there are plenty of exceptions!)
The Brasilians are going to cause me to have a heart attack at the tender age of 26. I kid you not. The laid back, mellow, don't-worry-too-much Brasilians are taking years off my life. And it's not because I am an obsessive over-planner either. (I've actually been doing pretty good backing off my always-gotta-have-a-plan way of life.) The lack of "what if" question analyzation on the part of the Brasilians is causing me to play out all the "what ifs" for each and every person around me. And it is starting to stress me out! And beyond that, some of the consequences from the lack of forethought have really been wearing on me.
I'm not naturally a worrier. But the lack of worry on everyone else's part has made me feel the need to worry for them. And in a city of dang near 5 million people, that's a heck of a lot of worry to take on!
Here are some common examples of why I may need to hefty supply of Xanax before it is all said and done:
-I am on the city bus. A bunch of young school kids (8-12 years old maybe) get on the bus. Despite there being seats available, they all stand on the steps of the bus and lean against the doors. The bus is flying through town zipping around curves, and the kids are leaning on the doors. In my mind, I'm playing out the what if those doors swing open? scenario and have an overwhelming desire to order the kids away from (or at least off of) the doors. No one else seems concerned; I sit at the very edge of my seat ready to jump and grab the youngins if any of them start to tumble out of the speeding bus.
- Eric and I are driving through Belo Horizonte with moderate traffic in our three westbound lanes. We are in the second lane from the right. A car comes up beside us on our left, passes us, and then proceeds to make a hard right turn across two lanes of traffic to take the road perpendicular to ours. We slam on brakes to avoid hitting the driver, who never evens looks our way. The motorcycle in the far right (turning) lane makes his right turn and is tagged by the car making the turn from the left lane. The motorcyclist somehow manages to keep his bike upright; my heart misses a few beats.
- We are at softball practice. There is a guy at home plate getting some batting practice while the rest of us field the hit balls. A couple people are standing on the field having a conversation with their backs towards the batter. A line drive comes flying towards their heads and I yell "BOLA!" hoping to get their attention and keep them from getting knocked out. The ball barely misses them, they look at me, give me a thumbs up, and then calmly return to their conversation with backs still turned to the batter; it takes me several seconds longer before I start breathing again.
- I am walking to class. A car parallel parks on the right side of a narrow street. The driver swings open his door to get out, never even looking to see if there is traffic coming behind him. Just behind him, a motorcycle is passing a car on the right side, even though there is only one lane of traffic on the narrow one way street. The motorcycle nearly slams into the open car door and the guy getting out of his car. No one looks even slightly phased by the almost really bad situation; I gasp as my eyes bug out of my head.
And then there are the pedestrians who casually cross the street in front of cars, assuming the drivers see them and are going to slow down. Or the red lights people run, never even slowing down to look for oncoming traffic that might be oh, you know, driving through the green light. And then there was the time I watched as another American frantically grabbed a little kid who was trying to shove a fork into an electrical outlet and the parents of the kid (who had been sitting back and watching the whole thing) were like, "what?" Then there are things like the construction worker I once saw using a tall ladder on a steep hillside by himself: he had the downhill side of the ladder propped up on an upside down bucket made level with a cinderblock.
But it all came to a head yesterday as I witnessed a bright yellow motorcycle come flying down the hill next to my apartment and pick up speed when we saw the light at the bottom turn red. Just as he was almost to the bottom of the hill, a car on the other side of the intersection decided to use the red light as an opportunity to back out into the street from a driveway. The motorcyclist came cruising really fast through the red light, the oncoming traffic sat at their green light and waited for him to pass, but he couldn't stop in time for the car that was backing out. He laid down his bike, which ended up underneath the car; he was extremely lucky and only ended up with a bad case of road rash. Meanwhile, I am pretty sure I suffered some serious damage to my cardiovascular system.
Accidents happen everywhere, I'm not about to say that they are limited to here. But holy cow! I witness so many more potentially dangerous situations on a daily basis that never seem to occur to those around me. I am really starting to wonder if those I live among ever, ever think through a situation and say to themselves, "hmmm, what if . . ." Or maybe they do and they are just such optimist that they only play out the positive outcomes and ignore the negative ones. I don't know really. But I do know that my little heart can't hardly take anymore of this! Not to mention I'm really starting to feel like a worry wart and pessimist of the strongest variety! It’s just not my style at all really.