Oops. I forgot to pay a bill before it was due. Usually we pay all our bills online, through our bank. We either get an email boleto (bill) or a boleto in the mail. Then we go online, and enter the code (which contains something like 30 numbers), check the amount, click and it's paid!
But when you don't pay on time, things get more complicated. You either have to go to the bank that holds the account and wait in line for what seems like FOREVER. Or sometimes you have the option of paying the bill at a Loteria or "Lottery." You can buy tickets for any of the thousands and thousands of various drawings, contests, card games, etcetera. And, you can also pay bills there. I remember asking my first English student here about the loterias: what were they? Why were there always HUGE lines outside of them? She had never been in one before, so she didn't give me much information. But what I've gathered is that it's mainly a place to buy your lottery tickets, and a service for those who don't have the resources to have a bank accounts (i.e. the poor). If you need to pay something in cash, you can go, pay, and get the ever important receipt. Note: always save your receipts for things like gas, rent, HOA bill, etcetera, because you'll need to show those receipts to the rental agency when you move out of the apartment to confirm that you've paid everything. Even though you already email them the receipt every month, and sometimes you send them a physical copy, they STILL need to see the original receipts. Arg.
But anyway, I had to go pay my bill. As with most things new that I have to do here in Brazil, I was nervous. How long would I have to spend in line? Did I have the right documents? Did I have to have the amount in exact change? I'm glad to say that it was easy: my wait was about 5 minutes, I simply gave the bill, the teller calculated the late fee, I paid and didn't need exact change, got my receipt and was on my way!
I'm still not sure where there are so often HUGE lines of people waiting outside the loterias. Maybe it has to do when there is a big drawing? An important soccer game? The alignment of the stars? Seriously, sometimes things like that seem controlled by such random factors. But I also think that many Brazilians just have a lot more patience and tolerance for waiting. We Americans are an impatient bunch, and we want to take care of business as quickly and as conveniently as possible. And maybe that wait in line provides people with the opportunity to pick the winning numbers, dream about how they might use their winnings, or come to terms with the amount of money they will have to pay on their bills.