We were on the two lane Costa Verde highway making our way from Angra dos Reis to Paraty. Beth, Cece and I had just finished 5 days on Ilha Grande and were skipping down to Paraty for a quick couple of days before heading back to Niteroi. It was a two hour ride.
About halfway along the route a very old, hunched-over and slow-moving man in an ancient, formal army officer uniform (complete with a snappy brimmed hat) entered the bus. A woman who appeared to be his daughter asked the driver to please look after him and drop him off just before our final destination.
The old guy was cute as could be in his historic uniform. His “luggage” was nothing more than two extremely thread-bare and patched up small duffle bags. He adjusted the window next to him to get a bit of a breeze and promptly slumped over and fell asleep.
About 40 minutes later, as we were approaching the turnoff to Paraty, the little girl sitting right behind the old man screamed out “Mommy, his hat!” I looked over just in time to see the man’s green officer cap disappearing out the open window. The bus driver was quickly apprised of the situation. The old guy woke up from all the commotion.
Next thing I knew the bus driver had pulled over to the side of the road, popped the bus into reverse, and started crawling backward along the shoulder to go find the hat. When he caught sight of the hat in his rearview mirror he stopped and asked a young passenger to hop out and go retrieve it.
Returning the hat to the crown of the old man’s head the bus driver patted him on the shoulder and said, “Be careful Coronel.”
As we made our way into Paraty I just kept thinking with a smile – never in America.