You know you’ve been stuck in a traffic jam for too long if the songs play in the alphabetically and you started with Alanis Morissette to end up only a few kilometres further with Bono complaining about the world.
“Why don’t they put a hónglǜdēng here? Don’t you agree, Juliette? I mean, that’s common sense, isn’t it?”
Feng is so annoyed he used the Chinese word for “traffic light”. I shrug. I agree with him but obviously, there’s no light, just an endless line of cars trying to turn, merge, get through, get home, get somewhere. It’s a slow mess punctuated by loud horn blasts and many sighs. A traffic light would certainly help and so would two-lane roads but neither are available on the island. I’m not in charge of transportation planning on Ilha de Santa Catarina, so what am I supposed to say?
Florianopolis Centro is big but walkable as long as you don’t mind going up and down very steep streets (expert tip, skip the Havaianas flip-flops unless you’re a true Brazilian). However, to get around the island, you need a vehicle. We spent a lot of time in the car on the way to the beach or back to Centro, mostly stuck in massive traffic jams.
The first time we were on Ilha de Santa Catarina, we thought we were unlucky with the traffic. We didn’t know the island well, maybe we were taking the wrong road or travelling at the wrong time. The second time, we blamed traffic jams on the end of Carnival—surely, everyone was hungover. Last year, we just accepted that traffic was just bad, period. This time, we knew what to expect—every trip takes at least an hour even if the beach is just twenty kilometres away. It’s like in Central America where a simple 30-kilometre trip turns into an epic adventure because the roads are unpaved or the bus stops every five metres to pick up passengers waiting in the middle of nowhere.
I used the time we wasted in traffic jams around the island on “productive” activities, like plucking my eyebrows or pulling out the white hair that hurt my self esteem. I’m not driving, by the way, Feng is the only one who has the skills to negotiate the roads and deal with the Brazilian driving style. I freak out when I’m on an empty straight road in Canada, I’ll probably cry if I get behind the wheel here.
I’m patient, I can spend hours editing a document or researching the meaning of a word, but sitting around and doing nothing drives me crazy. When there was nothing left to pluck I often choose to get off the car and walk for a few kilometres until Feng eventually catches up with me. I’m not selfish, I do buy drinks and snacks for the two guys stuck in the car on the way.
We chatted during these trips, and listened to the music stored on Feng’s USB key—Crowded House, Pink Floyd, The Who… Mark was quiet in the backseat because we have awesome parenting skills and we taught him how to just appreciate the scenery and let mommy and daddy spend some quality time together.
Just kidding. He was glued to the tablet. Most of the time there was enough battery for the ride—this is the one item we never forget to charge but it’s still not good enough. The first thing he said when we handed him the tablet in the rental was “man, no Internet here!” Duh. Those millennials…
The worst traffic jam we had was on the way back from the south of the island. We tried to avoid it by taking another road that should have been going to the airport, but we got lost in a town named Tapera. After a while, we discovered there was a road but you had to drive through a military base, a fact the map conveniently forgot to mention, so we turned around and joined the hundreds of cars on the main road. It took us over two hours to make it to Centro, and by the time we got there, there were roads closed there as well because a tree had fallen and hit a power line after a storm.
I finally cracked the local driving rule, though—two short horn blasts mean “I’m coming through no matter what, deal with it!” but you’re a woman walking in the street, I think it just means “as a driver speeding by, I’d like to say you have a nice ass.”