This is a guest post by Jason Bastanky. Have a story you’d like to share? E-mail me, dtravelsround [at] gmail [dot]com.
If traveling has taught me anything, it’s that heroes are made, not born. No one can know just what kind of person they are, just how much they are committed to their morals, beliefs, and fellow man, until they see another person in trouble and either feel compelled to help or compelled to ignore the need of another human and tend to self-preservation. A couple years ago, I found out what I was made of. I saved a man’s lip from a subway door in Brazil. At the time I was on my way to a huge block party in one of Rio’s infamous favelas.
I’m still glowing.
I’m also thinking of trying to get a house out of Extreme makeover home edition. I don’t have a house and I am a hero. Those are all the qualifications you need. And I’ll cry and scream in excitement when they pull back the truck, I swear I will.
I didn’t know that destiny was going to call on me that day. I suppose no one ever does. I was in Rio, in the subway station with two Canadians, a Frenchman, and a Brazilian. Notice who springs into action as the story progresses (hint: only me. U-S-A! U-S-A!). We were running to catch the train, which we did, just in time.
As we were running down the platform I noticed that our party had grown by one. Although I do sometimes get excited by seeing people run, and join in out of a sense that I might miss something fun, or that they are aware of some impending natural disaster or alien invasion I don’t yet know about, this man running with us was, like us, only trying to catch the train.
As the five of us from the hostel all leaped aboard and quickly filled a bank of seats, the man behind us was chosen by misfortune to be a victim of her malicious machinations. I’m not sure how it happened, I didn’t see it, I knew we had just made it on the train, and I’m not sure how the man, dressed in a soccer jersey and jeans, turned around to face the door as it closed. It made no sense, but when does tragedy ever make sense? The gods are a capricious bunch.
At first I didn’t even know what the emergency was. I just felt the sudden onset of tension followed immediately by yelling and looking. A few seconds before I had just heard a woman ask a man to watch her bags, and, having grown up in the post 9/11 world, I thought maybe the woman, a cunning terrorist in disguise, had jumped off the train to safety as the doors closed and the packages turned out to be some sort of bomb. I saw the woman return to her bags, and then turn her head at the door I was sitting next to. I scanned the scene and as we sat next to the door I looked to my right and saw a wide eyed, frantic look on the man’s face who had run with us. He was standing an inch from the subway doors, looking out onto the platform, and his lower lip, bunched and stretched, was stuck in the subway door.
People yelled at the conductor to stop. But we were in one of the back cars, there was no way he was stopping. One of the Canadians breathed a “what the hell?” as the train began to move. That’s when the spirit moved me, and I came to the man’s rescue along with a pair of jacked Cariocas. Carioca means someone dwelling from Rio de Janeiro. Fun fact.
I stood up and reached below his lip and tried to pull the doors apart. The other men tried too. No luck, subway doors are automatic, and they don’t open if the train is moving. I stumbled a step to my left as the train lurched forward. The three of us grabbed the man, who was now yelling, but between the Portuguese and the (hopefully) temporary speech impediment caused by the paralysis of his lower lip, I couldn’t understand a word he was saying.
“One, two, three? Ready? One, two, three?” I said in butchered Portuguese.
He made a noise I took to be in the affirmative. We grabbed him around the waist and on the count of three we all yanked. I was amazed how secure his lip was in between the doors. I even thought this was maybe some sort of bizarre street performance. But no, it was just a very unlucky man who happened to get on a train with a hero.
Jason Batansky is a location independent 23 year old traveling throughout the world, working 20-odd hours a week running 3 web-based businesses. He writes about his travels at Locationless Living and Flash Packer Guy. You can find him on Twitter @Locationless, Facebook , and subscribe to hisRSS feed.
2 thoughts on “Guest Post: Being a hero in Brazil”
It really doesn’t seem like a smart idea to have yanked but I’m so glad everything turned out well.
On the “American heroes” idea, people outside the US might see your comment as arrogant so I have to point out it’s no exaggeration. I’m culturally Brazilian, American and European and it’s the Europeans who have been the biggest of disappointments when it comes to being heroic – or just stepping up as a man: 15 years as a poor person in Brazil, 15 years in New York and all was dandy. Just over 2 years in Europe and I’ve been in some sort of trouble – with men nonetheless – 4 times with not a single man or woman to step in.
Brazilians are likely to help too but I really, really miss American courage.
You know, your comment reminds me of something that happened to a friend when they were living in Madrid. He lived in the city, so it wasn’t always too safe. One night, he and his roommate heard a girl getting mugged outside. They ran out with a bat to get the person who was doing the mugging. When they got outside, they noticed everyone else was on their terraces, watching what happened, but no one did anything. It’s interesting. I had trouble with men when I was in Europe too. One time, another person from the country came to my aid. The rest of the time, it was fellow travelers.