I was in Haiti and the Prime Minister came on the phone to vigorously deny a story peddled by his aides.
Even though I knew I was the victim of a trial balloon that went awry, I was still quite young and being shouted at by the Prime Minister freaked me out.
It felt particularly bad because the man at the other end of the line was the only Haitian politician I ever respected.
I realised I’d better develop a thick skin – and quick!
I recalled that story today after the Mayor of Rio slagged me off in this piece in O Globo. The Rio paper ran an article about my story in Time magazine that criticised the city for the lack of maintenance that helped bring about the building crash that cost 17 lives and the death of a man from an explosion in the city’s drains.
In response Eduardo Pães made the crass comment: “The Americans have been jealous since Chicago didn’t win the right to host the Olympics.”
Sometimes you know when the piece you’re writing will be controversial and prepare yourself for the backlash. But Pães’s reaction took me by surprise because my piece was so innocuous. It simply stated that:
“Two tragic events have underlined Rio’s need not just to invest in new hotels, venues and transportation but also to take drastic action to shore up the city’s crumbling infrastructure.”
Thankfully Cariocas understood and agreed. To my surprise, the comments that came after the story were mostly positive.
The vast majority agreed that the city needs more oversight and more investment in maintaining its infrastructure. And several people criticised Pães for his childish comments.
My thanks to them for understanding.