Cubans have many concerns these days. They have many needs. I know this all too well. But one of the most distressing is trying to get things in your home repaired.
This frequent need generates a type of stress in Cubans that surpasses the limits of the most phlegmatic mortal’s patience. It’s not only from the lack of money to cover this type of indispensable expense, but the difficulty these days in finding the right person who can do the work correctly, let’s say a plumbing repair for example.
Just a few days ago I had water problems for some mysterious reason. The valuable resource stopped running in my apartment so I had no other alternative but to go look for a plumber.
I pray I’ll never again find myself wrapped up in this perverse mission!
I don’t have to tell you how many calls I had to make to friends, or how many plumbers I talked to on the phone, or how many of them promised they to come by but didn’t, or how (if they did come) they quoted a price that was way too out of line for the work required.
I finally got in touch with one who “seemed serious,” though he finally came by two days later than what we had agreed on. He checked the water lines and not without some serious haggling we were able to come up with a price. To me it still seemed expensive, but I took a deep breath before handing him the cash to give him the green light to get busy doing the work. Finally I was going to have water again!
But, there was a setback in the work. It was necessary to look for new pipes, so the work was going to take longer than first anticipated. And since this plumber was going to have to work out in the sun, I had to add an additional 10 CUCs, which itself is more than half of the average monthly take-came pay in Cuba.
I tried to explain to him that buying the pipes was OK, but it seemed exaggerated to have to add a premium for his working out in the sun.
His response was “Well, forget it then.” He said he was only trying to “take care of it for me” by “doing me a favor.”
Still, it seemed unfair that someone who was going to “take care of things” was asking more than 20 CUCs for that “favor.” So, we both bid our mutual goodbyes.
A friend told me that before the collapse of the socialist camp in his country, Poland, this type of domestic labor became exceptionally difficult to get done. Coincidences?