Everyone is talking in Água Branca. Last month, “Mr. Palmeirense” decided to increase the price of (asking for) information. Now, those who want to get an address or directions in this neighborhood in the Zona Oeste of São Paulo need to pay R$8.
“Where’s the social security office?”, asks lawyer Patrícia Rocha, 23, placing a piece of paper with the name of the street on top of Mr. Palmeirense’s counter. “Information costs R$8″, he says, pointing to a sign on a window of his newsstand.
“How so? I’m not going to pay”, complains Patrícia. “Then I don’t know”, responds the newspaper seller, who has had a newsstand in the neighborhood for 16 years — three of them on Francisco Matarazzo avenue, in front of the Água Branca park. The lawyer, then, turns and looks up and sees a sign for the building she was looking for. “Ah, there it is!”
Mr. Palmeirense didn’t want to reveal his name. In the last three months, he’s provoked both revolt and laughs by those that pass by the newsstand. Merchants in the region are even thinking of copying his fee. Tired of being interrupted with questions, the newspaper seller and his wife decided to start charging R$2 per answer. One month ago, they increased it to R$8. “I don’t work for free”, he says.
“Do you know where the Adolfo Pinto avenue is?”, asks housewife Mércia da Silva, 55. “I don’t know”, Mr. Palmeirense says. “Of course you know, where have you seen it? You’re going to die alone”, says Mércia, angry.
In the 20 minutes it took to do the news report, five people asked for information. No one bought nothing and no one paid R$8. “People have an addiction to asking for information from newspaper sellers”, said the owner’s wife, who also didn’t reveal her name. The newsstand is about 5 meters from a little street that connects Francisco Matarazzo to Tagipuru street, near the Barra Funda metro station. Those who go down the small street won’t find any sign informing them that, there on the corner, is the avenue (they’re looking for). There’s no way to know, for example, in which direction number 1000 is. The first thing they see is the newspaper stand.
In March of 2011, the couple asked the local government in Lapa to place a sign on the corner. They called another 5 times, but the request wasn’t met because the tiny street has no name. The local gov’t said they can only put a sign there if a city councilman chooses a name and the request is approved legislatively. Aside from the metro station and the park, the region houses a social security office, hospitals, malls and the Palmeiras sports club. Mr. Palmeirense’s stand is the only one in more than a kilometer.
Nearby, parking garage workers also endure the questions. “I spend more time telling people directions than taking money for parking”, says Diego Bino, 25.
“No one ever paid and no one will ever pay, we know that. The fee is for irony’s sake”, said Mr. Palmeirense’s wife.
“Do you know where the bus stop is around here?”, a woman asks. “I don’t know”, says the newspaper seller. The bus stop is just in front, on the avenue’s median strip. “Ah, there it is”, said the woman, crossing the street. – Folha