At 1:30 a.m., I had a sudden craving for a pão de queijo.
Don’t judge if you’ve never had this quintessential, addictive melt-in-your-mouth Brazilian snack.
Fortunately, in Florianópolis, it’s easy to satisfy a few basic late-night cravings, as long as you enjoy what Brazilians eat when bars are closing—mostly fried snacks filled with chicken and cream cheese, ham-and-cheese bread, pound cake or yes, pão de queijo. Just walk to the nearest 24/7 gas station, they have a big selection of food and it’s not bad at all.
Hotel to gas station in the middle of the night. Easy.
I grabbed some change—a pão de queijo is usually around 3 or 4 reais ($1)—and headed out.
Just downstairs, a catador was busy dumping the content of a trash bag on the sidewalk. I didn’t bat an eye, this is a common scene in Brazil—catadores hunt for aluminum cans and sell them and yes, they do put the garbage back into the bag when they are done sifting through it. This is how Brazil became the world champion of can recycling, by the way.
Right or left? Which one of the two gas stations by the shore is most likely to have a freshly baked stash of pão de queijo?
Left first. This side of the shore is the “posher side” with nice condos, pubs and the big shopping mall.
Fuck, So many cockroaches tonight!
A bunch of twentysomethings are queuing on the sidewalk to get into a bar that doesn’t seem to be open yet. Some of the girls have the classic “I’m going out tonight” look—hair done, white dress, lots of make up—while others have a more unique outfit, grungy or punk. Interesting and strange that they’re all going to the same place. Now I’m curious about this disco.
Down the street, the gas station is busy yet no one is actually getting gas. A few guys are hanging out, charging their electric cars. Inside the shop, an old woman wearing a pearl neckless is having a cup coffee—I’m not sure I’d recommend caffeine in the middle of the night…
Damn. No more pão de queijo.
“In twenty-eight minutes,” the attendant tells me after checking the oven (they are baked on site).
Well, I’m not going to camp here and it’s really too late for me to have coffee. I already drink too much of it because it’s free at the supermarket and at the hotel.
Plan B, the gas station by the bus station.
I walked up the street and pass by a few homeless sleeping inside the Banco do Brasil lobby.
A few metres further, a family from Uruguay (if they have the right licence plate) is taking suitcases bags and sleeping children from the car to the hotel lobby. Looks like it was a long drive… Florianópolis is a popular holiday destination for neighbours from Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay. I even saw a Peruvian licence plate—that’s a long way from home…
More teens queuing for a bar. There’s a guy selling hotdogs from the trunk of his car, he’s making bank feeding the partygoers.
Down the street, a couple of sex workers are waiting for customers at the corner of the street. Funny enough, they’re almost overdressed compared to the rest of us with their high-heeled leather boots and tight corset.
A third one is leading a customer to a hotel I hadn’t noticed at the corner of the street. Note to self, make sure to avoid this one on Expedia.
Ah, here’s the gas station. Why are there so many cars? Did gas prices drop suddenly? Oh, I get it. All the rental agencies are bringing the vehicles for a car wash.
A biker parks and rush inside the gas station shop with his green UberEATS thermal bag. Are you serious? Someone ordered from the gas station?
A mountain of pães de queijo are waiting for me. That’s good news, I ain’t walking to a third gas station. I guess that’s why efficient people order through a delivery service…
I end up queuing sandwiched between two guys from the polícia de choque, the military police, in full gear with their machine guns (or what looked like machine guns to me, I’m not a firearm expert). Guess what, they were also craving pães de queijo…
And this is Brazil in a nutshell. Rich kids, poor workers, homeless people, sex workers, tourists from neighbouring countries, police forces and millions of regular people—many glued to their phone!—just living their life, like you and me.