Brazil has it’s share of American food: the obligatory McDonalds, but also Burger King, Subway and Pizza Hut. The other day, Tanya and I were totally wiped and wanted to have a nice quiet night in of pizza and a movie. So, like good, somewhat-homesick Americans, we decided to order Pizza Hut delivery. Only once you’ve tried ordering pizza in a language which is not your own do you realize how insanely difficult a task this really is, and how much you take the process for granted when done in your native language.
The 10 (and a half) steps in ordering delivery pizza, anywhere in the world:
1. Find the phone number of the pizza place.
2. Figure out what you want to order.
3a. Call pizza place.
3b. Wait on hold.
4. Give phone number of your location.
5. Give address of your location, should phone number not be in the system.
6. Place order.
7. Determine amount of order and delivery time.
8. Wait for pizza to show up.
9. Pay and tip the delivery person.
10. Eat pizza!
Now, for us, step 1 was the easiest. In our apartment, on the fridge, are three magnets: one for Chinese delivery, one for fruit delivery, and one for Pizza Hut.
Step 2 started with this conversation:
Tanya: “What toppings do you want?”
Jesse: “I don’t know… tomatoes, mushrooms, pineapple, whatever…”
Tanya: “Do you know how to say ‘mushrooms’ in Portuguese?”
Jesse: “Let’s see if they have an online menu…”
With online menu in hand, we determined we wanted to order a large, hand-tossed Parmesan Margarita pizza. Step 2 solved.
3a is where things get a bit difficult. Tanya calls to place the order, but realizes very rapidly that she has no idea how to solve steps 4 and 5. To back up a moment: there was no step 3b on this particular phone call. Brazil, as with most Latin American countries, is not known for its promptness in food service. And yet, there was no being put on hold. Perhaps we should have realized that this was the beginning of our lack of familiarity with the situation.
Realizing she can’t give them the phone number or address of our hotel, she tells the Pizza Hut girl that she will call back. But call back she doesn’t, as Tanya has had a very hectic week and is thoroughly exhausted of speaking Portuguese. I don’t blame her — it’s tough.
Being the persistent (and hungry) type, I decide to try to complete the remainder of this process relying only on my own Portuguese. I go down to the front desk, where I receive the phone number and address of our hotel. I come back upstairs, and here is were we have a brilliant idea: let’s just order the pizza online. They have a website, with the whole process right there. I start, but am caught when I can’t determine some of the parts of the address they want. Damn.
So, I try again the old fashioned way. I make the call, and… the Pizza Hut girl throws me a curveball — she asks for the address before the phone number. I manage to give her the address (after many “slower, please, I don’t speak well”‘s, and then…
What?! I’m not sure if I’m on hold, or if Skype started to hate me or what, but I couldn’t bear a full minute of that sound, so I hung up. I really, really was ready to give up, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to let a little Portuguese and bad phone connections get in the way of my dinner.
And so, I try again. But this time, the process begins with the proper step. I repeat the phone number that the doorman at the hotel gave me, but something is off. Ah, yes. This number only has 7 digits, when true Brazilian phone numbers have 8. Amazingly, the Pizza Hut girl is able to figure it out, and recites my address back to me, asking only for the apartment number, which I readily give her. Whew.
Again, 2 1/2 calls later, no step 3b. This is a word of warning to all American pizza places.
Time for step 6: placing the order. It starts out innocently enough — I tell her the kind of pizza I want. Then, she starts throwing crazy nouns and adjectives at me that I have never encountered. I know well enough to assume she’s asking about the size of pizza and type of crust, at least I hope I know well enough. So I just keep spouting out “grande, grande” (big, big) until she throws something else at me: ‘massa’. I have no idea what massa is, but I assume she’s gotten that I want a large pizza, so using the options provided me on the Pizza Hut website for crust, I try saying the word for (what I assume to be) hand-tossed. The girl on the phone gives a frustrated sound, then keeps saying “meia” (medium) followed by some other sounds that mean nothing to me (but were probably the options for thin-crust and deep-dish). I say “sim, meia” (yes, medium) out of confusion and hope for the best. (I learn later on from Tanya that ‘massa’ means dough or crust, so I remain hopeful that I ordered a medium crust: hand-tossed.)
She then tries to up-sell me on drinks and dessert, but luckily I know the words for those and say no. I think the worst is over.
She gives me the total: R$31.90. Okay, not bad. That’s about $17 US. However, all I have are R$50 bills, and as I found out earlier that day, R$50 notes are notoriously hard to break. So I ask if that will be fine for paying, and she says something I don’t understand. “como?” (huh?) I think I hear something about the driver and change, and her confirming quite a few times that I will be paying with a R$50. “sim, obrigado” (yes, thank you).
Will this process (and this post) ever end?
Step 8 was easy, we waited 1/2 hour like the girl said, and sure enough the guy showed up. I got the change back from him, which was indeed change for a R$50, gave the guy a tip (and realized later that he had already taken a tip off of the change I gave him), and checked to see if what was inside the box was really what I thought I ordered.
And yes, indeed, it was.
And it was delicious.
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