The friendliness of the 1170 Bus Conductor

It was my first time to take the 1170 bus on the return route back to Savassi, which is the neighbourhood where I live with my wife here in Belo (Belo Horizonte) in the state of Minas Gerais in Brazil. The bus departs every 20 minutes, and they are always on time, the bus transport system here is very good, there are plenty to take you everywhere, and they run 24 hours. 

I get on my bus, and take out my R$2.30 (about 70 cents) ready to pay the trocador (conductor), he looks up, and shouts at me in Portuguese; 

“Hey Bartez! Bartez is here! Bartez is here on my bus!” 

I froze with a ‘what’s going on?’ look on my face. 

The bus half-packed, my mouth was wide open, I could feel my face heating up and a bead of sweat pop onto my forehead. Jesus what have I done. 

“Excuse me?” I say. 

He realises I’m not a local. 

“You Bartez yes?” 

“I’m sorry…mmm que?, disculpa?”. 

“You Bartez! Bald head, beard”. 

(Who the fuck is ‘Bartez’?) 

“No, I Keith,” 


Mmm… yes that’s it” 

The Brazilians have a problem with the th sound at the end of my name, as it doesn’t exist in Portuguese, so they make it into an f sound, I’m used to it, but it still makes me laugh. 

“No, you Bartez, goalkeeper!” 


“Yes, goalkeeper, Francia!” 

Christ, Fabien Bartez, the ex-goalkeeper for France! I’d heard this before, the first time was from my brother. To be honest and no offence to my dear brother or the conductor, it’s ridiculous, because the only similarity is the beard and the bald head, although we are the same age. But it’s kind of ridiculous. It like everybody thinking that all bald people are gay! Yes! I do get that as well sometimes. 

I was in a bar in Dublin with my mate Stephen who also happens to be bald. Some bloke asked us if we were a couple. With a deeper than normal voice, I told him a flat no. His eyes lit up, but before he got too excited, I told him we were also straight. The look of disappointment on his face made me actually apologise to him. 

“Fancy being gay for a day?” was his response. 

What are the odds that a bus conductor, slag’s off an Irishman for looking like a Frenchman, in Brazil? I was embarrassed, but I couldn’t help but laugh. I walked very quickly, face burning red, and sat in the corner. At this stage the conductor, the driver and the 15 other people on the bus had all joined in on the conversation and were all having a good giggle and making comments. And as more people boarded, they were also informed of what was going on. There was no point trying to fight it, they were doing what Brazilians love best, having a laugh for whatever reason and I couldn’t help smiling. 

I boarded my 1170 every evening after that, and was greeted as Bartez, and we kind of became bus-mates. He knows some phrases in English, and he likes to practice them with me. Soon after, he asked me my real name. His name is Genise. Now, when I get on the bus, he greets with me with his big smile. And as the bus is pulling away, he sticks his hand out the window, waves like a lunatic and screams, “Bye Kif, my friend”. It brings a smile to my face every time. 

This kind of interaction happens a lot here in Brazil. Brazilians like to be happy, they like to have a laugh, be hospitable to each other. But isn’t this how we are supposed to be? friendly, respectful to each other. Have we lost this in Europe? I did lose it, I lost it along the way somewhere. I got tired of no smiles, no hellos, no goodbyes, so I lost it, on purpose, to spite everyone. But I’m finding it again, here in Brazil, the frown that has been carved into my forehead for so long is gradually smoothing out, my shoulders are not as hunched up as they used to be. I still have some ways to go, but seeing my bus-mate Genise and people like them will help me get there. He is an example of how we are supposed to be, courteous, and responsive to one another. He understands very well that every time, he smiles, says hello, makes a comment or says goodnight, that this simple and quick interaction, will return a smile or maybe even make someone’s day. He understands the basics mere manners, and having simple respect for each other is what makes his world go round. What Genise doesn’t know is that he and people like him actually make mine go round too. 

My 1170

13 Responses to “The friendliness of the 1170 Bus Conductor”
  1. Rio says:

    Well, you are an interesting bugger Kacker.
    Nice to see you have another outlet for all those popping synaps along with your liquid conversation. Nice read.

  2. Edu says:

    Adorei o artigo! Loved it! Really glad you’re rediscovering some things that I also think Europe has lost. But don’t forget that like any other spot in the planet, Brasil has its drawbacks as well.
    Anyway, say hi to Genésio for me!
    Big hug!

  3. Jon says:

    Great writing, really makes me want to go back to Brasil. Hope you’re having a great time there Kif and that married life is treating you well. Tomar um chope para mim/Jon

    • Thanks Jon, really appreciate the comment Jon, excellent. ive just stuck up another one about my honeymoon, tell me what u think when u have time. Hope your’e well.
      Cheers again.

  4. Justine says:

    haha you crack me up – brilliant ,
    by the way the gay name for the bearded bald guys are ‘bears’ – learnt it recently in london….interesting aint it

    • Justine!, ya mad yoke!, how the hell are ya?..
      ha ha, thanks a million for the comments on my blog, you are a dear!..Ive been writing loads lately, a lot of it is nonsence, like what you would expect from my gob, but some of it actually not so bad, so you have to continue to make commentss ok?..please do. I hope you are well in Nz, i see that you are leaving QT and heading towards Windy Welly, well good luck with that, and how is the bump?, have you popped yet?..
      big hugs J!.

  5. Muñe says:

    haha, you do look alike, Kif.. I’m glad you’re happy there and discovering new things. In Mexico people are like that also, it`s just here in Europe that people have long faces all the time.

  6. Nicole says:

    What a fabulous blog entry. I envy you and applaud your adventure!
    Congrats on your marraige as well.
    I will try and remain happy and positive in this country of sour pusses, I can’t let them get to me!
    Happy Holidays

    • Hey Nicole! are you honey?!..listen just wanted to say thanks for the comment on the blog!, really appreciate it!. How are things with you in Bcn?, fill me in by facebook!. Ive been writing like crazy and I have lots of themes and other stories from the jungle!, I’ve just finished part 1 of my honeymoon, have a gander when you can and I hope you can take the time out to keep up with the blog, Ill try not have them too long, it’s really hard for me NOT to wander off the’s an irish thing. Take care and talk soon. Big Brazilian hugs. Keith.

  7. Fiola says:

    Keith…your blog is hilarious!
    MISS YOU lots…glad to see you are loving life in BH

    Check yourself out:

    • Hey Fiola!, what a nice surprise!..thanks a million hun for the comment, really really appreciate it!. Ive just fininshed part 1 of my honeymoon, so you are not climbing Ben Nevis or cycling around Europe..please have a read and tell me what you think. Thanks love, and miss you too!.

  8. adriano says:

    nicely done indeed, brother.

    now tell them about the work-out on the 20 bus. 😀

  9. Fernanda says:

    Noooo way, Kif!…

    Why on Earth, God haven’t blessed me to be on the 1170 – wich I take very often from the exact same departure that you do, I suppose – when brilliant moments like this happen???

    “Hey Bartez! Bartez is here! Bartez is here on my bus!”… “No, I Keith,” – That scene would definitely make me laugh everytime I see the yellow bus passing by, making my life sooo much happier.. forever! You owe me a ride..I mean it. =P

    Congrats for the blog, it’s brilliant!

    Say hello to Wanessa. Hope you’r enjoying the drinks on the beach for us…

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