Whether a Guardian Angel is as handsome as Curtis Sliwa . . .
. . . or as warm and fuzzy as Henry Travers in It’s a Wonderful Life . . .
. . . or as beautiful as this statue which Mark and I like to think is watching over our house, the truth is you don’t really need a fancy Guardian Angel, one with capital letters, to keep you from repeatedly falling off into the abyss in the course of the day. Sometimes the ordinary everyday good will of your fellow human beings, what I think of as lower-case guardian angels, is enough to do the trick. It was just this ordinary everyday good will — which, by the way, Brazilians seems to have in inexhaustible abundance — that kept the abyss at a distance from Mark and me the other day, in Rio.
Miserable traffic on the way in from Búzios — bad enough on the stretch from Itaboraí to Manilha, worse still on the city streets. Passel of miserable but unavoidable errands. Heat to roast a chicken without any help from electricity or gas. Around midday, we started up one of the steep, twisty streets leading to the semi-alpine neighborhood of Santa Teresa, Rio’s answer to Paris’s Montmartre, with a view to checking into our favorite pousada before the unpleasant afternoon errands we had planned for ourselves. But someone had other plans. The transmission — the old-fashioned standard kind in our car—fell apart.
|Best I could get off Google Street View . . .|
Mind you, I didn’t say that Josevan was the world’s greatest mechanic, just that he was a typically Brazilian fountain of good will. On our second attempt to get up to our pousada in Santa Teresa, the transmission failed once again. We were on an incline, on another twisty, narrow street, pointing up. There was no way the car would go forward for us. We were blocking traffic. And, with cars parked on either side of the street, there was no getting out of the way by rolling backwards either. Out of the house closest to us came this elderly gent, who quickly sized up the situation. He moved his SUV, immediately behind us, so that we could roll into his space. He insisted on driving us and our luggage up to the pousada. He lent us his cell phone to call Josevan (Mark and I being the last people in Brazil and maybe in the whole of the Western Hemisphere to think they can carry on their lives without a cell phone.) And then, while we all waited for Josevan to get up the mountain, the elderly gent’s elderly wife served us a choice of tropical fruit juices and cookies.
OK, maybe Josevan isn’t just a typically Brazilian fountain of good will, maybe he is also the world’s greatest mechanic and that first time around he just slipped. He got us down to his garage again, in third gear, and by maneuvering the streets in ways that are hard enough to manage with all five gears in working order. He worked on the car for another hour. More money? Nah. Here’s what he asked: "Do you happen to have a bill from your country? Like a one-dollar bill? Just for good luck."
You can be sure we will bring this dollar bill with us next time we go to Rio.