By on March 10, 2013

I parked and was thinking of the day ahead. I didn’t notice the black shadow approaching my car. When I looked over I was quite startled. Oh no! A flanelinha!

In almost all Brazilian cities, the flanelinha is a fixture. Flanelinha (which loosely translates as flannel man, as in the rag) is the demure name given to the “workers” who divide the streets among themselves and charge drivers to park. Their excuse is that they’re taking care of your car. If you don’t pay up,  a fat tire or a big scratch will be a symbol of your chintzyness.

Most people just pay, but I go a different route. I tell them I’ll pay when I get back and, if it’s a place I don’t go often, I just drive off. Not a good strategy where I would be parking in downtown every day now. Instead, I decided to befriend the flanelinha.

Take João. I’ve known him for about ten years when he carved out his turf near my former place of work. At first, I ignored him and he didn’t bother me much. Later, his insistence grew. I realized that I needed to acknowledge his existence. Like most flanelinhas, João also washed cars. I asked João how much he would charge me for a wash. We reached an unspoken compromise. In return for washing my car every once in a while, he largely left me alone. To further improve our understanding, I would also give him old clothes on Christmas and his birthday.

As time went on, the Brazilian car market exploded. More cars on the street, more competition for parking. Regulars like João started reserving spaces for steady customers like me. Sometimes, I’d arrive at work, double park, hand him the keys and he would put the car away (somewhere) for me. At the end of the day, I would look for João, give him some change on most days, and drive away.

It was a mutually beneficial relationship. João would keep my car keys. If it became necessary, he’d fill up the meter. Through his customers’ payments, João became a functional member of society. At first, he came to ”work” on foot or by bus. Then he bought a bicycle. About 6 years ago, the grand prize: He bought a very beat-up, bare bones, 2-door, 80-ish, Fiat Premio. At the time he bought it, the car was worth about R$5,000 ($2,600). Three years later, João traded up to a mid 90s, 4 door Premio. With power steering and windows. On my last few days at work, João surprised me yet again. Working on the streets, collecting change, João had somehow scraped up enough money to buy a shiny, silver, 7 year-old, Uno Mille with AC (newer than my own car!). I congratulated him on his progress and told him I’d soon be gone and he no longer needed to keep space for me. He thanked me and wished me luck.

Back to today, I’m facing the challenge of dealing with these guys again. I handled the situation by not giving the flanelinha any money. Instead, I looked him square in the eye and told him I’d be parking the car there everyday. After my business was done, I returned to my car and silently let out a breath of relief as no damage had been done. Of course, the flanelinha was there. I asked him his name. I asked him how much to wash my car. I grumbled about the price. Tomorrow, I’ll ask him to wash the car. Time to make a new friend.

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89 Comments on “My Friend, The Flannel Man...”


  • avatar
    golden2husky

    I guess you can say he provided a service once parking became really scarce. But prior to that, I would consider his predatory “business” to be operated on intimidation. Many years ago when I would occasionally drive into New York City there were the “squeegee men” who would rush your car at a traffic light and “clean” your windows. They would then demand a fee. They knew the intersections where the traffic built up, and where the road lead the “bridge and tunnel” folks out of the City and into suburbia. These folks were easy targets because they were easily intimidated and usually had nice cars. The squeegee guys usually ignored vehicles that looked beat up and showed heavy bumper damage from being parked on the city streets. Then Mayor Guiliani made quality of life issues a platform of his administration and the smeared winsdhield became a thing of the past…

    Must say that you are a trusting soul to give someone like that the keys to your car.

    • 0 avatar
      MrWhopee

      Indeed, it’s quite a lot of trust to hand him the key to your car. I guess if his own car is newer than yours…

      Anyway, it’s incredible that he can afford cars doing what he does. There are similar ‘service’ in Jakarta, but what they’re doing is more akin to panhandling though. Just a halfhearted swipe of your car with a feather duster or a mop, then ask for change. But you can usually brush them off with a wave indicating you don’t want their ‘service’, and off they went to another car. I doubt that even the most successful of them will ever afford even a motorcycle with what they’re making, though. Many people with proper jobs in high rise offices can’t afford them.

      From your description it seems that this ‘flanelinha’ is more like a parking attendant and car washers combined. Now parking attendants are everywhere in Jakarta, and come in both ‘official’ and unofficial variety. But they don’t take care of your car in any way though, though usually cars don’t get stolen from areas with parking attendants. But they don’t provide valet service, and no one trust their keys to them. If a parking area is full sometimes they would allow you to parallel park behind the rows of parked cars, and ask you to leave your car in neutral, and they would push it around to allow other cars blocked by it to escape. And they make considerably more than those panhandlers that pretend to wash your windows. Though cars are probably beyond their means, though. Maybe an used motorcycle…

      • 0 avatar

        Hey Mr Whopee!

        Thanks for reading. In my city, it’s very hilly so it’s impossible to leave the cars in neutral. In Rio though, they demand that and push your car around to block people from parking. Makes for very scratched bumpers.

        These guys making enough money to buy a car is very recent. I guess the massification of the car is finally underway in Brazil. Doormen, domestic maids, construction workers now all seem to have a car. It staterd about 10 yrs ago and the traffic and parking is ever more difficult.

        It’s progress and the lives of these people is vastly improved. With cars they have to pay taxes and become “real” citizens. Of course, there are the idot elitists who talk about urban tolls and prohibiting parking everywhere. In my mind they are thinking just of their own comfort and would like to keep the people as beggars instead of independent individuals.

        • 0 avatar
          MrWhopee

          Wow, Brazil must really have taken off then! Way ahead of us. Cars are still a luxury here, though not as much so as before. For now, it’s motorcycle that the large majority can afford now, and the road’s chock full of them. Can’t imagine when the motorcycle owners all upgraded to cars, which will inevitably happens someday. Though probably not for at least a decade or so.

          Although, as you described, what seems to be the ‘golden age’ is not so golden as it first appeared to be! It brings with it its own problems.

          Anyway, great article, and very enjoyable to read!

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            It’s funny, here in America, welfare puts all of our citizens in the richest 10% of the world, that is gov’t handouts, and there is a large amount of these people that believe they are entitled to it and find no shame in having it.
            I say this because these people would absolutely complain to everyone if they didn’t have the latest smartphone or a decently new car, yet they don’t realize these are luxeries, they believe everyone in the world has their 40 inch TV and A/C.

            It must be nice to live where people don’t believe their entitled to what others have.

          • 0 avatar
            onyxtape

            Hummer: We are spoiled and entitled. On more than one occasion, I’ve needed some muscle for some gardening and tried to hire people on Craigslist – a couple of times I’ve tried to reach out to people who say they’re vets or recently jobless. I really do want to help out a fellow American in these hard times. I’ve even gone as far as going to their home and picking them up in my own car. Nevertheless, a good portion of them pass out from partying the night before. Then I just end up stopping by Home Depot and picking up a few guys there – at least those guys do what they promise to do.

    • 0 avatar

      Hey golden2huskey!

      I didn’t give hime the key right away. It took years. First, I’d let him wash the exterior of the car. Then, I’d let wash it inside, but I’d take the key and trust the flanelinha to keep an eye on the car. Finally, after he’d bought his own car and I saw him driving, I’d hand them the keys.

      Squeegee men are common here too. They prey on woman and old folk mostly. Only once did one try to force his service on me. When he threw the water, I landed my hand on the horn and turned on the wipers. He huled some insults at me but that was that.

    • 0 avatar
      HerrKaLeun

      “I guess you can say he provided a service”
      like the Mafia that provide the service to NOT kill the store owner if he pays “protection fees”

      I realize many of these are poor and have no other means, but this robbery/threatening/blackmailing (or whatever the legal term would be) should be prosecuted. they go after prostitution (which is a voluntarily paid service between consenting adults with no victim), but let these gangsters roam the streets?

      kudos to Guiliani for cleaning up the streets.

      • 0 avatar

        Legally, in Brazil, they have a right to work. What cannot be demanded is payment as it’s not something you voluntarily buy. That’s the legal theory.

        BTW, prostitution is not a crime. Pimping is. In Brazil.

        • 0 avatar
          HerrKaLeun

          you “voluntarily” pay if you don’t want your car scratched.

          and they have a right to work for me, even if I’m not hiring? Hope they don’t sue me later for not providing health, dental and vacation benefits as well..

          It is sad to see that here in the US things going int he same direction, like in Vegas, and probably Detroit etc.

          I’m glad you could make these arrangements and probably were lucky to find someone who is nice and not through and through criminal.

          • 0 avatar

            There’s the legal theory and then there’s objective reality. What other option do I have? Get in a fight each and every day, risking the chance of getting hurt or hurting someone? It’s not ideal but that’s just the way it is.

            Yeah, I was probably lucky. Near my job, on another street, there was another flanelinha who was a mean SOB. I avoided parking there. He did damage some of my co-workers’ cars. But for people like that, my city in any case, has a hot line for complaints. If they bother too many people, eventually something is done about it.

            It’s like organized crime in a way, you’re better of being kidnapped by professional criminals that a half crazed amateurs. These regulars have something to lose and they usually reach a balanced relationship with society. The real risk in Brazil as the impropmtu flanelinhas that appear at major events like a show or a soccer game. Most of them are there just to score and they don’t offer any kind of service. If you ever come to Brazil, watch out for those!

    • 0 avatar
      bunkie

      The squeegy men are back. I see them at the end of Crescent street near the entrance to the 59th Street bridge. This is the route that cabs and those in the know use to get to the upper east side from LaGuardia and Astoria, so it always has lots of traffic and the red light is exceptionally long. Perfect ground for them.

  • avatar
    raph

    When my old man was stationed down in Panama and had to make trips to the pacific side he would tell me about guys like this. He figured it was cheap insurance to pay the guy even though he drove a rental whenever he made the trip.

  • avatar
    Pebble

    As the US economy heads straight towards Third World status, we’ve started seeing squeegee men on the street here in Las Vegas, sometimes fighting with cardboard-sign beggars for a prime corner. Nice to see the formerly richest country in the world reduced to this.

    • 0 avatar

      In Brazil every once in a while a flanelinha is killed in turf wars. They must physically defend their stretch of street from competitors. There are those who say some enlist the help of police, via a contribution, to guarantee their space. But I don’t know and can’t really affrim that.

    • 0 avatar
      eggsalad

      You must live and work in a different part of Las Vegas than I do. I’ve seen plenty of beggars, none of whom have offered windshield-washing service.

    • 0 avatar
      philadlj

      Oh, Pebble, it’s already gotten worse here in Amish country: there are no powered vehicles, just horses and buggies! It must mean the ENTIRE COUNTRY has now reverted to a pre-industrial level of technology. How far the mighty have fallen. It’s pretty much just like Rome, only with more people wearing pants.

  • avatar
    thelaine

    This sort of extortion is common in many big cities. I am not surprised you turned it in to a sort of friendship, however. Your positive spirit comes through in just about everything you post.

    • 0 avatar

      Hey thelaine! Thanks. I learned that over time. When I was younger I’d stare them down but somehow never got hurt or had a car damaged by them. It’s impossible to ignore the reality, they are there. The State doesn’t crack down on them cause they know it’s a social relief-of-pressure situation. The best thing to do is to get along.

  • avatar

    That was great. It sounds very similar to Jamaica.

    It sounds really annoying at first, sort of like a protection racket, but it always pays off to treat someone with simple human dignity. These guys are working for their money, not sticking a knife in someone’s ribs. I always try and imagine what it must be like to stand in their shoes, I wonder if I would be so enterprising or honorable.

    • 0 avatar

      Exactly. I highlighted “João”‘s progress. I think as a whole it’s a way to protect society. Individually it’s a pain, collectively, these guys have got to work. As Brazil progresses and more jobs and money reached people’s pockets, I can see the day flanelinhas will no longer be tolerated. But that’s far off in the future.

      • 0 avatar
        juicy sushi

        I’m just happy to read a positive story about life getting better for some. If things continue to get better for those on the bottom in countries like Brazil then things will get a lot better for everyone as it creates a mutually beneficial cycle. Sort of like Brazilian football teams now being able to keep hold of their players for longer, making football better there, but also getting European teams to do more to improve their own youth teams, raising the level of football domestically as well.

    • 0 avatar
      michal1980

      Thomas – These guys aren’t working. Paying someone to not damage your car is not work. Its extortion.

      When I was in chili they had the same type of racket scam going on.

  • avatar
    raincoaster

    I’ve encountered a similar situation in one of the downtown parking lots in Vancouver. After I paid for my parking, I was approached by a man who let me know he’d be there all night keeping an eye on the cars to discourage thieves. He said that if I liked, I could contribute some funds to him once I got back to my car. I never once felt pressured or threatened and it was kind of comforting knowing he was there. I did tip him and have actually gone to that lot on purpose.

    • 0 avatar

      Wow, would never believe that’d happen in Canada. I’m curious, was the guy a foreigner? Because I believe this way of life exists all over Latin America and the guy you talked about maybe was “exporting” the Latin American know-how.

      • 0 avatar
        raincoaster

        Pretty sure he was Canadian, but Vancouver tends to get people from all over, especially homeless. Winter on the street in most other areas of Canada can kill you pretty quick.

        • 0 avatar

          Thanks for the info! Homeless people in Brazil sometimes catch a cold from the rain. Don’t mean to sound mean, just joking. Homelessness is terrible and in the Brazilian winter these guys suffer a lot too. At winter time there are always campaigns to give them warm clothing. It’s needed.

          • 0 avatar
            infinitime

            Take it from another Vancouverite… it happens here quite a bit. I used to work near a busy intersection in downtown, and every day, the squeegemen would offer unsolicited “windshield cleaning” services while you are stop at the light. Often, they start before you can tell them no to.

            Sadly, with a (relatively) mild climate, Vancouver is often the destination for Californian homeless moving north (because they are harassed by most US cities), and those from eastern Canada escaping the cold weather.

            My “solution” came in the form of a 16-year-old Hyundai, with more dents and rust than anything else. Pretty soon, these guys with squeege were looking as if they were going to offer ME money at the intersection! :)

          • 0 avatar

            Hey infinitime!

            LOL! Great solution!

        • 0 avatar
          vertigo

          Yeah, over in Ontario the winter is nature’s defence against the homeless.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Terrible, but still a +1

          • 0 avatar
            ZekeToronto

            That’s not as true as you might think vertigo. In the city of Toronto alone, there are more than 40 agencies (not a typo) working together on the homeless problem. THAT’S why we don’t have people freezing to death on the streets.

    • 0 avatar
      onyxtape

      Yeah, there used to be a permanent squeegee guy in the financial district in downtown Vancouver.

  • avatar
    luvmyv8

    My dad learned about these guys too.

    Granted it was Tijuana, but the concept was the same, except the guys there were a bit more preditary there and they would run up to you in traffic when you’d be waiting for a red light or at a stop and “automatically” do it for you, whether you wanted it or not. Of course, they’d be selective about their targets.

    My dad was always a Lincoln man, so there was always one there for him and whatever my mom would be driving. My dad also owned a beach house on the Tijuana ‘Playa’ (beach) that he would rent out. We would go down there to check on the property or address any concerns…. my dad made the mistake of taking his ’85 Town Car Signature Series on a trip. A big, white gleaming RWD luxobarge with California plates sticks out like a sore thumb among the beater Tsuru’s, scrap heap ready station wagon taxis, run down pickups and Beetles. My dad was constantly harassed, these guys would not leave us alone until we crossed the border.

    From that point on, we would take mom’s considerably less obstintatious ’88 Nissan Maxima down there and they pretty much left us alone in that car.

  • avatar
    Hummer

    Question Marcelo,
    Is it true that there are fake taxis used to kidnap foriegners particularly in Brazil?

    • 0 avatar

      I can’t say it has never happened, but I don’t recall anything in that vein. Taxis are pretty well controlled and clearly marked. The biggest scam they do, and it seems more prevalent in Rio, is drive around uselessly to push up the bill, or at night, not turn on the meter and charge a fix sum (illegal but I have had to agree to that in Rio to go back to the hotel after a concert).

      • 0 avatar
        marcosbarauskas

        A fake taxi may be a an unauthorized taxi. That is, they may not have a license. I haven’t heard of kidnappings either. But you know what, I’ve been fooled by taxi drivers in Buenos Aires and even in Rome. It seems everyone wants a piece of a tourit’s money.

      • 0 avatar
        ranwhenparked

        Oh, they do that in the US too. It’s getting harder for them, with so many taxi fleets increasingly installing GPS trackers and the like, but it definitely still happens. If you’re in a new city you’ve never been to before, what can you do? Trust the guy to get you to your destination and pay him whatever it works out to.

  • avatar
    daviel

    Just free market protection

    • 0 avatar
      chimichanga

      More like informal economy I’d say. Legality is a small part of it, especially in countries were the market doesn’t operate like ours.

      They were young(er) in the country where I lived for a while, and I would simply curse at them as they approached. They thought I was police and left the car alone. But friend approach is better if you’re a regular somewhere. Especially for a guy like this.

      Trust operates completely differently in a non-western country too. I’d trust them the keys even more easily. If they are the kind of people who would whisk your car away, you can tell yourself all the cautionary tales about yourself you want… it WILL be gone. If they’re not into that, you’re fine.

  • avatar
    Lampredi

    “If you don’t pay up, a fat tire or a big scratch will be a symbol of your chintzyness.”

    Then they are obviously criminals and should be treated as such. Do the Brazilian authorities take this problem seriously and ensure that it is taken care of, or do victims of this scam have to deal with the criminals themselves (or worse yet, just shrug and pay up)?

    • 0 avatar
      marcosbarauskas

      I totally agree. Unfortunately, the law seems to ignore that. The police says they are not doing anything wrong, and in order to do something, would need to catch them in the act (of scratching a car, for instance), to actually take them.

      • 0 avatar
        Lampredi

        That’s just not acceptable in a civilized country. Don’t the Brazilian citizens *demand* that something be done ASAP?

        What about vigilante action against these criminals?

        • 0 avatar

          Hey Lampredi!

          The state has much bigger fish to fry with our levels of poverty, crime, lack of housing, education, sanitation. The jails are already packed, it’d all but impossible to lock all these people up.

          As to Brazilian people, there are many like our friend Marcos, but they are a minority. Fact is, and to be brief, we are still a deeply Catholic country. That means poverty is a “virtue” and tolerance is practiced. Over history, small cities in Brazil, Colombia, Spain, Portugal, even Italy and France (specially in their most southern parts) have always had a town drunk, a town pervert, a town gay man. These people were tolerated, often beat up, incarcerated for short periods, but rarely killed or made to leave town. Contrast that experience with the history of Puritan New England for instance.

          All that so say that most people or don’t care (cause they don’t have cars), or they feel guilty of having some while others have little and are “forced” into the street. As Brazil grows, more people become motorized, more and better jobs become available, the tolerance for this kind of thing will surely diminish. But it’ll take a while.

          Vigilantism does happen. Though not specifically directed at flanelinhas, so-called “death squads” were financed usually by small businesses to “clean up” the neighborhoods when street children, homeless, prostitutes and other started disturbing business. It happened a lot in the 80s and early 90s, but the State has had success fighting the squads and now, though it still happens, seems to happen much more when one individual decided to take action and not as a concerted effort anymore. Thankfully.

          • 0 avatar
            raph

            Oh man, another thing I used to hear about when my folks lived in Panama – my mom mostly would talk about the death sqauds in Brazil and homeless children on the local news.

      • 0 avatar

        @marcosbarauskas

        Yeah that’s a bummer called flagranti delictis (sp?). It’s the little juridical guarantee that keeps innocent people relatively free from state harassment, i.e., make it difficult for police to incarcerate you simply because they don’t like your face.

  • avatar
    marcosbarauskas

    First, there are basically two kinds of ‘flanelinhas’:
    some ask you for permission to look after you car, and you may pay them as much as you think they deserve. Others demand money not to damage you car (of course that’s not how they approach you).

    Neither is providing a service you need. And, while they do have the right to work, our law does not acknowledge such ‘profession’. Legally, it’s not a job.

    I live in Sao Paulo, Brazil and I refuse to pay them. That’s why there are parking lots and parking meters. Someone mentioned extortion in a comment, and I can’t think of a better word.

    Cheers!

    • 0 avatar

      Hey Marcos!

      I know what you’re saying but fact is the Supreme Court has ruled on this and it is considered a righ to work case. So they can do it, but IIRC the ruling is that they cannot demand money upfront of force someone into paying. The Court also ruled that cities have right to regulate the activity. If it’s regulated, it’s a profession.

      I live in Belo Horizonte. BH has regulated the activity. DOn’t know about São Paulo, but here, if they play by the rules, their status is pretty much secure, legally speaking.

  • avatar
    MM

    These guys, usually teens 15-18, are endemic in Spain (Andalusia) as well. Non-payment has led to several friends’ windows getting popped, and they rifle the car for change and sunglasses, etc. A Euro is cheap insurance (they’ll find a Euro in the console regardless, so we figured we’re saving the cost/convenience of a window). Also, they keep other kids off your car, so probably worth it.

  • avatar

    Very adaptive way to deal with the problem.

    I once read an article where a guy in NYC basically let a homeless guy sleep in his car. I can’t remember the details, but it was similar to your story.

  • avatar
    richardsheil

    The old joke here in Dublin, Ireland goes something like this:

    Guy drives up and is approached by the “lock- hard” man.

    Says to him that it is ok, no need to mind the car as his Alsatian (German Shepherd dog) will look after the car for him.

    Cue reply of: ” Does he put out fires mister?”

    Note: Called a lock-hard man as this is what he says to you as you reverse into the spot. “Lock-hard” meaning turn the wheel fully to full lock or the end of its travel.

  • avatar
    Summicron

    If these guys are under the cop’s radar for crime prevention, are they also too insignificant for protection? If a car owner physically retaliated against one, could he/she get away with it by quickly leaving the scene?

    • 0 avatar

      By quickly leaving the scene and not having your car’s license plate written down, and not hurting the guy, I think the police wouldn’t bother too much. Now if you do hurt the guy, there’ll be an investigation. And you’ll surely get into trouble.

      • 0 avatar
        Summicron

        Thanks for your reply. I’m specifically wondering about women trying to protect themselves with pepper spray, mace or whatever is legal in Brazil.

        Of course, needlessly escalating this situation would be stupid. But as you say below, it’s one thing for a large male to deal with these guys, quite another for a 5’1″ woman.

        • 0 avatar

          Hey Summicron!

          Women are the worst victims of this. As they can’t physically defend themselves, they are “ripe for the picking” as it were.

          Now, I remember a while back the discussion if pepper spray and tha kind of thing would be legal or not. I’m not sure how the courts decided. What I know is that, if a flanelinha hassles a womsn enough that she feels the need to use such a thing on him, and he complains to the police, I sincerely believe the police will laugh him out of the station.

  • avatar
    AFX

    I remeber my first trip to NYC as a kid in the 70′s, and seeing what a freak show that city was. I was sitting in the back seat of my brother’s Chrysler New Yorker when we pulled up to a stop light at an intersection. From the sidewalk up comes this homeless looking guy with a squeege and a bucket full of some mystery liquid and he offers to wash the windshield. I’m sitting in the back of the car thinking WTF ?!. I never saw that kind of thing in any of the other smaller cities I was ever in. About that time I was thinking NYC’s not really a nice place to visit, and I definitely wouldn’t want to live there. My other “first” in NYC was watching a guy running a three-card-monty game on the sidewalk and taking money from suckers until the cops came down the street and the guy disappeared. I also loved the fact that all the stores downtown metal security gates on the front of them, including the perpetually “Going Out Of Business !” store.

    That wasn’t the best windshield incident in that car though. The best was when we took a trip through the drive-thru safari at Great Adventure themepark in NJ, and a monkey jumped up on the hood of the car. The monkey spotted the black rubberized caulking my brother had put on the base of the windshield to stop it from leaking, and the monkey then proceeded to peel it off and eat it like it was licorice.

    The story about the flanelinhas was interesting though, and it’s an interesting extortion racket they have going on there with shaking down people to park on public streets. If it was me though I’d tell the guy that I had a 360 degree videocamera mounted in the car, and if he came near my car I’d pull the baseball bat out of the trunk and he’d wind up working the handicapped spots in the future, if he caught my drift.

    • 0 avatar

      Hey AFX! Great stories.

      Now you have to remember flanelinhas are always there. Have always been and will probably go on into the foreseeable future.

      My story here was one pf personal growth. I refuse to walk around angry all the time. WHen I was younger, I had a more agressive attitude. My wife would always say, don’t fight, they’ve got nothing to lose, but you do. It look a long time for those words to sink in, but now I see the wisdom in them.

      The story here is also of balance. You can’t be a push over. If you act scared they’ll prey on you. Refuse payment up front, don’t smile, look them in the eye. Of course, that’s easy for me as I’m a man in my 40s, big. For women this balancing act is that much more difficult.

      • 0 avatar
        michal1980

        the fact this people exist, means that your country is a bunch of push overs.

        • 0 avatar
          thelaine

          Don’t know where you are from, but it happens in the US as well and has been going on for a long time. It is an old scam.

          • 0 avatar
            Summicron

            +1
            Really, what an adolescent thing to say. It just highlights the maturity of Marcelo’s attitude as opposed to this tough-guy-in-Mom’s-basement comment.

        • 0 avatar

          Well, you have apoint. This was the only colony in the Americas that survived independence in one piece. This was achieved by military means in some cases, but more by dialogue and compromise. Independence itself was achieved politically, there was no need for war.

          However, you don’t know the level of poverty, misery and despair that led to this situation. The fact that it has gone on for so long, makes it that much more difficult to erradicate. You’re welcome to think I am a push-over, but I think I’m taking the necessary steps to live in my country as well as possible.

        • 0 avatar
          infinitime

          @michal980… That’s a bit harsh. Different societies play by different rules. You can’t really apply the same approach universally. While what the flannel man does may be technically illegal, that doesn’t mean it isn’t an accepted/tolerated practice in his country.

          You will find that in most poorer countries, those at the bottom often have to resort to “resourceful” ways to make ends meet. For someone with no marketable skills and little education, this may be his only way to earn a buck and to feed his family.

          If he wasn’t doing this, he may be pursuing a life of crime, robbing and mugging his way to stay alive. Between those choices, this is the lesser evil.

          More advantaged people who live in such an environment know this to be one of the failings of their society, and simply choose to tolerate this as part of life. That doesn’t make them a push-over. In fact, it may very well simply make them a more tolerant individual.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      AFX: That disgusting NYC you visited in the 70s (and 80s for that matter) is but a distant unpleasant memory. Despite the public outcry of the My Way or the Highway terms of Guliani, and the Nanny state of the Bloomberg administration, quality of life in the City is vastly improved and it is the safest large city in America. I don’t live there, but I have the fortune/misfortune of working there.

      • 0 avatar
        bunkie

        Sadly, I see the signs of backsliding. I had to wave off a squeegeeman this weekend, the number of homeless on the streets is increasing and there’s a return of graffiti on the subways. Granted, it’s nowhere near what it was in 1977, but it’s worse than it was in 2006.

    • 0 avatar
      corntrollio

      “The monkey spotted the black rubberized caulking my brother had put on the base of the windshield to stop it from leaking, and the monkey then proceeded to peel it off and eat it like it was licorice.”

      There are some birds that will eat it too. My understanding is that vultures in certain locations will eat weatherstripping around your windshield — I think people have specifically mentioned this for the Everglades.

  • avatar

    Here is Abu Dhabi and in Dubai, they are uniformed parking lot attendants. They don’t charge but will find you a spot in a congested underground garage and ask if you want your car washed. The have portable wash stations and it is a legitimate business. Like everything else, it is third country nationals and I shudder to think of the rent they pay for the wash stations. But I suppose it is better than being shot at because you were born in the wrong village.

    When I was in Ecuador, the young boys would hang outside of nightclubs at closing and hail you a cab. It was possible to get tone without help, but man these kids would hustle. It would happily pay $2 for the convenience and lack of extortion.

    Globally, from folks actually washing cars to street musicians, I don’t mind handing over a few buck for someone who is able bodied and working.

  • avatar
    djn

    Brasilians have a long history of paying the “middle man”. There used to be a career, maybe still is, of the Despachante or dispatcher, whose job was to carry your permits applications around a dozen or so government agencies to get the myriad of proper stamps.

  • avatar
    motormouth

    I always wondered what these guys would do if someone actually tried to do something to your car. Surely it’s not worth them risking a beating or worse to protect a car which only represents a few R$ in change.

    • 0 avatar

      They won’t break their necks for you, but just by being there, it’s an extra set of eyes. If someone wants to take your car, they will, but it’s sort of like an alarm. If your car doesn’t have it, it just makes it that much less appealing to the casual car robber.

  • avatar
    hf_auto

    Thank you for a great article, it’s refreshing to read about culture instead of another spec-sheet or business analysis…

  • avatar
    Magnusmaster

    God, I hate these guys! Here in Argentina we call them “trapitos” and they are a cancer in Buenos Aires. They are common around football stadiums, as they usually belong to the “barrabravas”, or hooligan mafias. Unfortunately nobody does anything to them. When someone did threaten the “trapitos” to stop, they complain that they don’t actually intimidate people, but that they actually take care of people’s cars. Bullshit.

    • 0 avatar

      The same in Brazil. When I go to a soccer game (and it’s been years for a myriad of reasons), I just take a cab, or go in somebody else’s car, never mine. The guys who work around this kind of event are the worst, opportunists with nothing to lose or offer back In these cases the word extorsion is very applicable.

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    A few years ago my daughter graduated from the University of Pennsylvania (not to be confused with Penn State) in Philadelphia. I decided to seek parking a few blocks from her apartment, and ended up on a side street. To my surprise, there was a guy sitting on the curb who announced to me that he was watching parking meters and would put money in if it ran out if I was interested. Given that I was in a good mood plus have a deep antipathy towards the local, scumbag, money skimming parking authority from my days in this neighborhood, I gladly gave him a five spot to “watch” the meter. He was still there several hours later and my meter had been refilled as requested. Since there was a two hour limit on the parking meters, I gave the guy credit for coming up with this idea. It was also a lot cheaper than a $25 parking ticket.

  • avatar
    corntrollio

    There are homeless people who do this in the People’s Republic of Berkeley. There are certain areas, particularly near People’s Park (since homeless people are lazy and don’t want to walk far), where a homeless guy will “watch cars” for people.

    You generally have to pay them, or they will scratch or otherwise damage your car. These horrid miscreants would never pay a meter for you or do any other favor, and they’d never do anything to someone stealing your car, which is rampant in Berkeley.

    Many students with cars in Berkeley had one stolen (some twice), and almost everyone had a regular glass guy to fix the broken windows. People got used to leaving nothing in their car and keeping the glove box open to show that there was nothing worth stealing. You didn’t want to leave your doors unlocked, like in Atlanta, because you didn’t want dirty hobos sleeping in your car.

    Berkeley basically encourages this sort of thing, but not in the way that Marcelo is describing for Brazil where it’s more civilized and regulated. The city, among its many other misguided policies, encourages aggressive homeless people to live there and harass people by providing subsidies and not converting People’s Park to a productive use, among other things. Most of the Berkerley voting types live in the hills above and are happy to vote in BS homeless-friendly ideals that won’t affect them, don’t do anything to solve the problem, and make Berkeley a crappy place.

  • avatar
    MrBillG59

    From 1964 to 1967, when I was between 5 and 8 years old, I lived in Baltimore, MD, just a few blocks north of Memorial Stadium where the Orioles and Colts played.

    During baseball season, many game attendees preferred to park in the neighborhood rather that at the stadium. I don’t know if it was because of the fees charged or lack of stadium parking space.

    The neighborhood kids and I used to stand in the middle of parking spaces and demand a quarter to get out. We all earned some penny-candy money that way.

  • avatar
    alvaro74

    Hi Marcelo!!!
    Since I’m from Uruguay I have to live with these urban characters, we call them “cuidacoches” (think you don’t need translation). And the worse ones appear when there’s a soccer game or big show, asking for money before you leave the car. Their fares can be about R$ 5, 10 or more (in local pesos of course!!) and there’s the default answer in case you refuse to give them any money: “if something happens to your car, I’m not responsible so don’t complain and don’t say I didn’t warn you”.
    I’ve driven from Uruguay to Florianopolis-SC twice, and I couldn’t find a single “flanelinha”. Of course I used the hotel parking but when driving to the beaches of Ilha de Santa Catarina from Canasvieiras, those boys did not show up. I parked my car at such places as Jurere, Barra da Lagoa, Campeche and many others, nobody asked for a single real…but never went further in Brazil than Florianopolis. This is a very, very big country and my experience is of course very limited….
    Need to travel more and see as belezas do Brasil!!!! Parabens Marcelo!!


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Staff

  • Contributing Writers

  • Jack Baruth, United States
  • Brendan McAleer, Canada
  • Marcelo De Vasconcellos, Brazil
  • Vojta Dobes, Czech Republic
  • Matthias Gasnier, Australia
  • W. Christian 'Mental' Ward, Abu Dhabi
  • Mark Stevenson, Canada
  • Cameron Aubernon, United States
  • J Emerson, United States