5 Reasons Why I’ll Never Buy an Apple Watch in Rio

Neither do I carry anything that looks valuable.


1989: 8 years old

My stepfather had given me his Casio G-SHOCK watch. The rubber around it, which actually was responsible for protecting the watch from shocks, was gone. It looked ugly that way, but I enjoyed playing with it so much that he gave it to me.

I loved that it had four different buttons and many functions. I loved its beep. My friends at school and I would synchronize our watches so that every hour all watches in class would go BEEP BEEP at the same time.

I wore it all the time. It was waterproof, after all. On the rare occasion that I removed it, a tan line was there.

One day I was on the street playing football with a few friends. Suddenly, around the corner, three boys appeared. They looked to be between 12 and 14. They carried a pipe, a stick and a metal bar. For some reason, I remember the weapons. They walked towards us. They were yelling something and pointing at us. I thought it was some kind of joke. Maybe they were friends with some of the kids I was playing with.

Then, they arrived. The one closest to me raised the pipe:

“Give me the watch!”

I gave it to him.

I looked around and most of my friends had escaped. Some entered a nearby building, while others ran as fast as they could, before the danger arrived. It was my first experience, so I still hadn’t developed the instinct that everyone in Rio needs to develop.

Another friend lost his T-shirt. Another one lost his Reebok. It was quite common to have your sneakers stolen in the 80’s. Especially the Nikes and the Reeboks.

Photo: Google Street View. See the wall behind the man in a blue shirt? That wall was the goal. The sidewalk was the field.

The teen thieves left. I went back to my uncle’s place, where the family was gathered. I was shaking and crying. Not only because of the experience, but because I thought my stepfather would beat me because I lost the watch he gave me.

He got very angry, but not at me, gladly. He was an explosive guy who carried a revolver. He asked me to describe the boys, then he got into his car and drove around the block, weapon in hand.

The family comforted me. After my stepfather returned, he also told me it was ok and that it was not my fault.

Happily, he also did not find the boys. I don’t know what could have happened.

Some time later, I was given another watch.


1997: 16 years old

In the 8 years that followed that first incident, I was one of those kids who flew kites from the apartment window, who played marbles on the carpet, and who rode his bike in the playground of his building. Those are the kinds of things that make people ask who actually is behind bars in this Country.

After many years only moving around in cars, with adults, and going out only to malls, I started moving around on my own. It didn’t take long for my second lost watch.

I was going home by bus, 435 line, returning from my English class. It was around 7pm.

It was only me and this other guy on the bus. He was acting nervous and I already thought he might want to steal me. I was almost home, so I decided to take the risk and hang on for a few more stops.

He finally turned his head and yelled:

“Hey!”

I did not look, pretending I was not hearing.

“Heeeeeeeeeey!”

I kept ignoring, looking out the window.

“Where do you live?”

“What do you do?”

“WHAT DO YOU DOOOO??”

Zed. Would you steal something from this guy?

I didn’t even know how to properly answer those questions. I half froze and half was pushing the limit a little bit, as he wasn’t leaving his seat. Just yelling.

He cursed something, stood up, and left the bus at the next stop.

Luckily, I escaped this time, playing the deaf card. I don’t recommend it, though.

Some people say they start to act crazy when they think they are about to be approached by thieves. They recommend opening your eyes widely, displaying some tics, waving your arms randomly, cleaning your throat with a weird noise. To sum up, act like Zed from Police Academy. I don’t recommend that either.


1998: 17 years old

I was walking from a friend’s house to the nearest bus stop. It was around 10pm. A child approached me. He looked 12. He told me to give him my watch and everything else in my pocket, because he was armed. He kept looking across the street, and I saw his ‘backup’: a grownup on a bike. He was just monitoring and would surely intervene if something went wrong with that kid’s initiation.

“May I at least keep the bus pass so I can go home?”

“It depends, where do you live?”

“Tijuca.”

“No, then.”

Luckily, I knew the doorman of a nearby building, where I used to live. I asked him for some money to go back home.

On the following week, I went back there to pay him back.


Pocket Watch. I was 100 years late on the pocket watch trend.

1999: 18 years old

At that point, I already had a new watch, but it was a very cheap one. Furthermore, I never wore it on my wrist. It was always inside my pocket.

I could very well be a 19th Century Lord, carrying my pocket watch.

I was on the bus (always the bus), from College to work, line 410. The bus was quite full, but I was way at the back of the bus. Now, THIS I recommend:

“When taking a bus in Rio, sit as much at the front as possible.”

Sometimes the bad guys steal one or two people in the back, and leave. So, use the odds in your favor.

AIWA TA-163

A man who stank like garbage sat beside me. I had my headphones on. I was happily listening to my AIWA Walkman, which I had bought with my first paycheck. I was quite fond of it. I carried it WITHIN my pants for concealment. The headphone wire passed within my shirt and only the two in-ear tips would come out from the neck of my shirt.

He showed me his own AIWA Walkman, much better than mine. It had a digital tuner, while mine was analog. Anyway, he poked me and I removed my headphones.

“Do you know how to use this?” he asked.

“No. Sorry.”

“Where do you live?”

“Tijuca.”

“Do you know somebody from Botafogo?”

“No.”

“Do you know Jackal?”

“No.”

“Do you know Potato?”

“No.”

“Do you know Big Head?”

“No.”

He asked me about other people with strange nicknames. I didn’t know any of them. Why would I?

“Ok, then. Give me the Walkman. I have a gun here.”

I unplugged it and gave it to him.

“What’s this in your pocket? Give it to me.”

There went another watch.

“Now, the money.”

I only had a bunch of coins and bus passes. Tough times for me.

“Nevermind. Keep it.”

He stood up quickly and headed for the exit door. Back then, the exit door was the front door. When he was almost leaving, he turned around and returned to where I was.

“Hey, smart boy. You forgot the headphones.”

I removed the headphone from within my shirt, rolled the cord in a perfect circle and handed it to him.

“Thank you very much…hey, driver! Hold on! I’m exiting on this stop!”

Before moving on, notice the pattern here. Many questions about where the victim lives and who the victim knows. Thieves have rules too. If they steal from the wrong person, they can be severely punished. By severely, I mean SEVERELY!


2001: 20 years old

Another cheap watch, another bus, line 247.

I was at the back seat, going to work. The bus was crowded.

Beside me, a normal guy. He wore a nice polo shirt, nice shoes. Looked like someone going to work.

“Excuse me,” he said.

“Sorry to interrupt you. See that guy standing there? He is my friend and he has a gun. I also have a gun.”

He lifted the shirt discreetly to show it. He continued, “I am not going to touch you. I am not going to touch your stuff. You just open your fanny pack, take only the money and hand it to me, please.”

Yes, I was being stolen by a gentleman.

And yes! I did wear a fanny pack. Moving on!

I unzipped the fanny pack, picked the money and gave it to him.

“What’s that?” he asked.

“Food vouchers, from work.”

“Give me those also…and that watch there.”

That’s how I lost my last watch.


The Following Years

I never bought another watch.

Of course, the popularization of mobile phones had made watches obsolete, except for aesthetic reasons. Even then, I was tired.

Coincidentally, I was never stolen again. Except for this other story.

Anyway, watches seem to bring me bad luck.

Actually, Rio brings me (and everybody else) bad luck.


Final Words

One might read this story and think that I should not be complaining. I was a privileged kid who lived in nice neighborhoods, with support from the family, who had the opportunities to go to school, College and English classes. What about the unprivileged kids, who live on a daily basis with extreme violence on their doorsteps? I don’t have an answer for that. I cannot speak for them.

The point of this article and many other stories I tell on this blog is to show how difficult it is to live in Rio and in Brazil. You can study all your life, you can move up the ranks at your job, you can specialize yourself. You can open your own business. If you do well and you are lucky, you might start making money at some point and it is time to “collect the reward for your hard work”. But then, what is the point?

You cannot buy a watch. You cannot buy a nice car. You cannot wear jewelry. You cannot buy a nice smartphone. You cannot buy a nice bike. You cannot buy a top camera.

Because you live under the constant threat that you might lose what you worked hard for.

People end up travelling a lot, which is a good thing, or spending on things they can only enjoy within their own confinement.

The question remains, though: what is the point?

Like what you read? Give Rodrigo Pipoli a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.