HAVANA TIMES — Paterson, the lead character in the latest movie from US film director Jim Jarmusch, does the same thing every day. He wakes up every day next to his wife, he has breakfast, and he goes out to drive an urban bus for hours. Then he comes home, walks his dog and goes into a bar to drink a beer; he ends the night tenderly with his wife. This is how days pass him by, day after day.
Every day, I watch urban city bus drivers from my balcony overlooking the terminal we use to travel in Alamar. They work hours and hours. They must also have partners, even a dog at home. And yes, I’m sure they have a drink every afternoon when they get off from work. How many similarities and how different they are from Paterson!
Paterson, the movie*, is a reference point which we must all see. It’s a tribute to the US doctor and poet William Carlos Williams, and is also proof that creativity can also flourish in a routine life. Monotony isn’t the only thing that marks this bus driver’s days, but the low income he receives too.
However, Paterson, the ordinary poet, doesn’t drink more than a beer at night, he enjoys reading and he writes in the little free time that the driver’s seat leaves him. He doesn’t have high aspirations and he doesn’t believe he is superior just because he writes poems. Our drivers, like all Cuban workers, receive wages that barely satisfy their needs for a week in the month.
Sometimes, I don’t know whether they get drunk to forget the unhappiness that eats away at them or because they are happy. Many get drunk, that’s a fact, more than once a week. They act as if they were the bosses of the block and of each and every one of their neighbors.
Paterson speaks quietly, he keeps his loving ways with his wife and he isn’t worried about reasserting his masculinity at home or on the bus, not even at the bar where the outpouring of alcohol could stir his deepest darkest instincts. He’s very different to our drivers, as it would seem that the Cuban school of drivers teaches a never-ending course called “who is the macho here?” In order to pass, they must shout, abuse passengers as they deserve and take what they have learned and apply it to their private lives which, generally-speaking, stop being private as soon as they put on their uniforms and sit in the driver’s seat for the first time.
Paterson’s bus stays cleans and is almost empty; in contrast, our buses are normally dirty and packed with people. Paterson enriches his days by listening to his passengers’ stories who come from this neighborhood in the New Jersey city which shares his name. They become his source of inspiration. Conversations take place on a silent bus which allows us to imagine some people’s inner worlds.
Here, in Havana, drivers are the protagonists of stories, who control what music you have to listen to during the trip and at what volume; who don’t respect stops and argue with anyone they feel like.
In the movie, we see Paterson put away his book of unedited poems; here we see many drivers put away a pipe, a piece of iron rebar or something else to defend themselves “if things get ugly.” Every driver chooses their weapons according to their means, their options, their context, culture, temperament… and a long list of etceteras.
This is how different and similar we citizens of the world can be. The thing that most distances us from Paterson is that this movie only lasts two hours and the crude reality of Cuban drivers (and whoever has to suffer them) already seems eternal.