Carta Ultima

Despite feeling lousy, I went into town on Monday to try to get my car out of Brasil. When I arrived at Sr. Santos’ office, he told me that I would need to get a CPF, the Brasilian ID number. The computer refused to allow a car to be shipped out of the country by anyone without a CPF.

Together we went over to the Banco do Brasil, which apparently would assist in filling out the CPF request form. Unfortunately, doing anything at a bank in Brasil involves waiting in a huge line. We took a number, which was ‘008’. The display on the wall read ‘132’. I couldn’t imagine that we were 875 people away from being served, especially as the number only seemed to change every few minutes.

We sat and waited. And waited. After an hour, the counter still hadn’t advanced much. I knew that I needed to get some paperwork notarized, so I suggested that we get that completed while waiting for our number to roll around. Sr. Santos initially looked a little shocked at the thought, but I insisted and off we went.

We returned a half hour later and the count was only up to 172. It was three in the afternoon, and I didn’t see any way that we were going to get to the desk in the next few hours. I wanted to ask Sr. Santos what was going on, but didn’t have the language. So I just sat on the floor reading.

The numbers reached 180, and then reset back to ‘000’. After that it was a short wait until we went up to speak with a clerk. She filled in my information, copied my passport, and told me to return the next morning after 10am.

Oh, and I also needed to pay R$4.50 at the teller window on the other side of the bank. I looked across the bank to where an enormous line slithered back and forth (Disneyland-style) across the floor. Oh, no.

Sr. Santos told me to pay, pick up the CPF the next morning, and then come to his office. And he was off. I got in line. An hour later I finally reached the window and paid my US$3 equivalent. They gave me a receipt and I went home.I awoke on Tuesday feeling a lot better. Sr. Santos had assured me that once I had a CPF I could return home and my car would follow, so at 8am I went to a travel agency and bought airline tickets. First to São Paulo, then Miami, and finally to San Francisco. The tickets were for that afternoon at 3pm. I was cutting things close. I wanted to be home.

The doctor came by the pousada at 9am, and was a little dismayed that I was flying while still suffering from some pain. But he prescribed some antibiotics and wished me good journeys.

I returned to the Banco do Brasil only to be told that I needed to go to a federal building to pick up my CPF. I went there, waited for about an hour, and finally my number came up. I went to the indicated desk, where the clerk immediately started complaining about her job. She spoke fast, and I didn’t understand her, but I knew what she was saying. The body language, the tone of voice, all told me that she was bitching about the office. At the first break in her rant, I smiled shyly and said that I didn’t speak Portuguese. She paused a second, laughed, and then continued complaining about the System.

After a few moments, her computer spit out a sheet of paper which she stamped twice and signed. This was my CPF, the number that I needed to be able to leave the country. I was free!

I returned to Sr. Santos’ office, and he nodded approvingly. Then he told me that he needed notarized xerox’s of a number of different documents, including my title, passport, and CPF. He told me where to go and I was off. It was 11am. The clock was ticking.

Another line, another wait, and then I was back at Sr. Santos’ office. He shook my hand and wished me good travels. I asked him again if he needed anything. Nope, everything was ready to go. It was noon, and I returned to the pousada.

I packed quickly, paid the bill for the stay, and then jumped into the waiting taxi for the ride to the airport. I got to the airport around 1pm, with plenty of time before the flight.

Tonight I’m in Boston, not San Francisco. From Recife I called Dan to tell him I was coming home and learned that he was going to be at a meeting in Boston until Friday evening. I re-routed my flight from São Paulo to New York, then to Boston before returning to San Francisco.

It’s cold in Boston. The leaves are shades of orange and yellow. The streets are clean. Everyone is talking about the election, one of the most interesting in a century. The antibiotics seem to have helped… I’m feeling great both physically and mentally.

I grew up near Boston. It’s good to be home.


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