Apr 28, 2011

Riding in Trains with Brazilians

One can tell where they are in the São Paulo's Metrô (techincally Metrô and CPTM, but for simplicity's sake let's stick with just calling the entire 12 line system the Metrô) based loosely on the content of the PSAs being broadcast over the public announcement system. On the core Metrô lines, those that run along Paulista and into downtown São Paulo, announcements urge passengers to give the right of way to the elderly, be civilized in the boarding process, not to block the doors, allow others to board the train if you're not taking this one, or stand to the correct side so that those in a hurry can get past you. The focus is speed, courtesy for your fellow passengers, and respect for the boarding rules.
On the other hand, the trains (alright, CPTMs) that provide access to the further out suburbs and São Paulo's Vida Loka offerings, the content of the messages change. The focus on speed and allowing others to reach their destinations on time seems to be lost - no one that's riding these trains has business that is that urgently important. Instead, it's don't leave a mess in the cars, don't sit on the floor, don't play your music speakers too loudly - it disturbs the other passengers. CPTM riders, like rowdy school children, are provided a list of "don'ts". The outer Metrô messages give an instructions on how to become civilized subway riders - clean, quiet, and out of the way of others.
Admittedly, the central metro lines are more crowded, and you're less likely to run into someone playing their pint sized boom box on these lines. The messages make sense for the problems that each of the respective lines have. However, the tonal difference between the two sets of messages, to me, is a larger reflection of the hierarchy of Brazilian society. The attitude towards the lower classes is that they're "uneducated, uncivilized", and need to be instructed as to how to conduct themselves in a clean and polite manner. The attitude towards the upper classes is one of social cohesion and respect - let's all work together to make this city function smoothly. Real Brazilian citizens ride the inner city Metrô - São Paulo is proud of these classy subway riders. Whereas the outskirts of the city are home to the masses, the faceless crowds that need to be herded from place to place within the city, that should keep the trains clean and ready for the next boxful of riders, heading to work and keeping the city, en masse, moving forward.

NOTE: To date, I've ridden on 10 of the 11 lines. They are numbered from 1 to 12, but in reality there are only 11 lines - there is no line 6.

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