22 April 2013

Paradise Lost

As Mark and I patiently waited our turn at the 127th Police Precinct in Búzios, I had time to soak up the atmosphere. It was something like Hill Street Blues meets Barney Miller, with just a touch of Kojak thrown in, since three of the four inspectors on duty had shaved heads, à la Telly Savalas. Everything seemed so familiar, from the way the cops walked (that certain cocky-but-smooth strut) to the way they dressed (tight-fitting jeans with a large, roomy shirt to conceal the gun). The women’s bathroom was out of order, as I’m sure women’s bathrooms are in precincts all over the world. Even the world-weary cop banter, which was sometimes hard for us to follow, seemed familiar. And yet something was very different. Gone was the American cop’s crisp, military-like "State your business, sir." In its place was the Brazilian "Have a seat, take your time, would you like a water or a coffee?"

Okay, my Brazilian friends have now all raised their eyebrows and sighed heavily. Yes, Mark and I look foreign, and foreigners are treated especially well. Mark and I also look — er, um, mature. And people of mature years are also given some special consideration in Brazil. So, okay, maybe we got the VIP treatment. It’s just that as I looked around it didn’t seem that way. Each complainant was getting the full and focused attention of an inspector, and for as long as was necessary. And everyone appeared to walk out of the precinct satisfied (I’m of course talking about the lucky ones who didn’t arrive in handcuffs!).

DJ setting up first speaker . . .
And here's the second speaker
By now you’re wondering why we were there in the first place. Well, we weren’t exactly robbed, unless you consider it a crime to rob people of their sleep. There was no violence perpetrated against us, unless you agree with me that ear-shattering, bone-crunching music at 3:00 a.m. is a violence. There was no reason to bother a first responder, unless you were worried about a seemingly dangerous spike in blood pressure. In short, we were there because of Neighbors from Hell, and I don’t mean the TBS series. To our anger and despair, the house directly next door to ours has begun renting nearly weekly to large groups of 15 to 25 people for parties. Oh, wait, wait — the owner says they’re not renting for parties. They’re renting to "responsible and good people only, who use the house as families do." (These are the actual words of the absentee European owner in a recent e-mail!) Uh, sure. Right.

The dubious humor . . . 
. . . of some renters
The rental activity, which began in the high season, and which we tolerated because it was high season, has now become intolerable. We’ve called the police repeatedly, but there seems to be only one patrol car for all of Búzios, and Mark and I concede that murders, rapes and armed robberies trump mere murderously high decibels. So, no car. Instead, we received some very sound advice on how to proceed after the fact, and that’s why we found ourselves at the One-Two-Seven, waiting to file a registro de ocorrência, a criminal complaint against a neighbor. I mean, we’re too old for this shit, you know? And we’re not alone. More and more law-abiding citizens, Brazilians and non-Brazilians alike, are fed up with the flagrant it’s-Búzios-so-anything-goes attitude of outsiders.

We’ve now had a crash course in Brazilian law. We filed our complaint under Article 3.688/41 of the criminal code, Perturbação do sossego alheio (roughly translated, disturbing the peace). And unless the owner of the house next door has a crisis of conscience and comes to his senses (an outcome we’re trying to achieve via e-mail communication), we will take our registro to a lawyer, who will file an action under Article 1.277 of the civil code, Direito de vizinhança (the right to peace, health and safety in one’s neighborhood). It’s really a crying shame that it’s come to this. Paradise Lost? We’re working on Paradise Regained!

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