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SOURCE: Population Demands More Buses, Diário do Nordeste, Fortaleza, 2008

Be prepared for anything when you use the bus in Fortaleza, capital of the northeastern State of Ceará. More so, if you are a woman.  But if you’re like me and you don’t drive, the bus is an everyday lesson in tolerance and sharing space: sometimes, a very tight space.

During the first month of our arrival in Fortaleza, I learned not to enter a bus with little standing room. As you have to pay the trocador and pass through the turnstile, you cannot get off the bus through the entrance. When my stop approached, I couldn’t squeeze my way towards the exit. I was forced to remain on the bus until it reached the terminal.

Getting to work by public transport was a waking nightmare. There were never enough buses during peak hours. If I wanted to get to work on time, I could not make the mistake of thinking that the next bus would be better. It could be clogged at the entrance! It’s no way to start your workday, especially if you have to take two or three buses.

I leave you to imagine what wives, sisters, mothers, and daughters must face under such a tight squeeze, especially when targeted by perverted males on the hunt. Until the day I started working for a manufacturer that provided privately operated buses for its workers, I, too, had my share of close encounters of the degrading kind.

Like the trabalhadores brasileiros (Brazilian workers), I dreamt of owning a car to end this daily assault. Even a Fusca 1982 (Volkswagen Beetle) with a sickly engine would do. Clammy bodies struggling with adversity squashed my decision to reduce the toxic fumes pumped into our atmosphere.

Life has a way of getting in the way of our best intentions.