HAVANA TIMES — I had just bought some things at Havana’s Galerias Paseo shopping mall and, thinking I could use a break and some air conditioning to replenish my energies, decided to sit at the lobby of the Hotel Cohiba across the street.
The sliding glass doors opened and I went in like any tourist would. I made out a comfortable sofa where I could sit and give my legs a rest. I’d been running errands the whole day and and my skin was covered by an uncomfortable film of sweat. I hate this hot weather.
I looked at the foreigners, coming and going. Many who were sitting had their cell phones or laptops in front of them, and you could tell they were either navigating through the Internet or trying to do so. Everyone was immersed in their own affairs.
A cleaning lady emptied the ashtrays full of cigarette butts. Another, further away, mopped the floors. They are almost always dark-skinned – that never fails – a curious detail that brings to mind the employees of other hotels.
Suddenly, I had the urge to pee. I had drunk a pop and glass of water. So I looked for a bathroom to relieve myself. I walked around some, and the only bathroom I came upon was locked. I thought that, if a foreigner who wanted to use the bathroom came in from the street, they would have to go all the way up to their room. I decided to return to the sofa I’d been sitting on and to continue reflecting upon my respite there.
At the reception desk, they were addressing a number of guests with extreme courtesy. The receptionists were speaking in a low tone of voice and didn’t gesticulate once. From where I was sitting, I was also able to make out a small bar, with only one patron inside.
People carrying luggage would arrive while others would go out in search of a taxi, to leave the hotel.
For a moment, I struggled to get a daydream going: I’d arrive at this place and they’d greet me with respect, as one should any human being. I would check in at the counter, sit down and connect to the Internet just as easily and naturally. Then, in my room, I would take a hot shower, call room service or come down to eat at the buffet.
It’s true that, in order to make a dream like that come true, one has to work very hard and save a lot of money. I know of two or three people who have managed to make reservations at a hotel, but these have been terrible, two-star dives, where the Cuban-styled treatment has made their stay similar to one at a campsite, where the food has been poorly prepared and conditions have been generally awful. All of those services are part of an “all-inclusive” package, a publicity stunt that seduces and deceives many.
I suppose that is not an adventure, that the true adventure is the one before my eyes.
Finally, I got up and left. The sliding glass doors opened once again. I started heading home. On the way, I could only think about one thing: that I had to hold in the urge to pee.