Who was that masked man?

At about 8:00 p.m. Monday, I left my home for the airport for the trek to South America. I met my colleague who also will be working on the tour with me. After an easy check-in, we boarded the plane close to on time and settled into our seats. The configuration of the plane was 3/3/3. She and I had the two aisle seats on one row in the center section. For a long time it appeared that the middle seat might remain unoccupied. The only tell-tale clue was someone who had walked past us and when asked by the flight attendant where his seat was, he replied, “it’s the jump seat.” Yes, the plane was that packed, and so in a while we greeted the person who was to sit between us on this 15 hour trip.

He was a young man who had come to Israel as a tourist and to visit friends. He is an English teacher in Sao Paulo, and his English was pretty good. Of course, over the duration of the flight, we had some time to talk. When he heard that we had some hours in Sao Paulo, he wrote down for me information about where we should go and how to get there and back.

When finally we reached Sao Paulo and ascertained that our luggage had been checked through, he said that perhaps instead of taking the bus that he had originally recommended, we join him in his taxi that he had ordered. He said that they would be passing through the center of the city and it was not a problem to drop us off.

Of course we agreed. He told us that this taxi driver was wonderful, very reliable- and that’s why he had him pick him up at the airport. As we rode, our friend told us about Sao Paulo—what a huge city it is! He also told us a lot about the Jewish community which has 5 non-ultra-Orthodox day schools! He didn’t know how many ultra-Orthodox day schools there are. One school, established by Safra for his sister’s children, hires teachers who will teach in English so the children become fluent in English and are able to study abroad. Of course the children also learn Hebrew.

He and the taxi driver (who spoke no English) talked about our taking a bus back to the airport and about where we might find the bus. Then the taxi driver suggested that he transport us back to the airport for less than we would have to pay for a bus. Naturally, we agreed. After all, our friend had told us that the driver was reliable.

As we neared the center of the city, the taxi driver suggested that he keep our carry on bags for us. The truth was that our carry on bags were pretty heavy and we knew that it would make things easier for us. He told us that he would not be transporting anyone with luggage and that our bags would be safe.

We had his business card and we had the recommendation; it sounded good. As we left the taxi, we agreed to meet at the same location at 3 p.m. As we left, the driver gave us an umbrella to use since it was drizzling.

We walked through the park and then saw across the street an amazing building that our friend recommended we visit. It was the Museum of Contemporary Art. Museum of Art, Sao Paulo There was a long line of people waiting to get in. I went to ask how much a ticket was. It turned out that today, entrance to the museum was free.

The exhibit was wonderful. There were both European and South American artists represented and the exhibit was well narrated in English as well as Spanish. There was even a wonderful exhibit and video on the restoration of one of the pieces that was exhibited.

After our museum visit, we just walked and looked at the city. Close to 3 o’clock the two of us started to think about what we had done—leaving our carry-on bags (each containing our notebook computers and all of the information relevant to our tour) in the taxi of a person we didn’t know. Yes, we had his card and I had taken a photo of his license plate (because I wanted a photo of a Brazilian license plate), but how much good would that do us if we wanted to be on a plane in 2 hours…

We waited from about 10 minutes to the hour. We watched taxi after taxi pass. We began to doubt ourselves and then, on the dot of 3 o’clock, the driver pulled up to the curb and took us to the airport. He charged exactly what he said he would charge and our carry-ons were completely intact.

It was perfect.

Our only question… we never got the name of our benefactor from the plane. Who was that masked man?

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