A Speed Limit for Pedestrians?

Isbel Diaz Torres

You have to move at a certain speed…

If you walk any time after midnight in an outlying neighborhood of Havana, you have to move at a certain speed.  The new Highway and Traffic Act went into effect this year.

It’s known that cars should travel within certain speed limits in urban environments.  Though freeways and wide avenues allow for higher velocity, narrow streets, curves, and school areas require that movement be much slower.

Now, a new situation has come to my attention.  It’s not related to maximum speeds, but to minimum ones.

The anecdote is very short.

My friend Jimmy Roque was heading home late one night.  After having taken care of a friend and taken him to the hospital, he was returning to his home in El Palmar, a neighborhood in the capital city where the majority of its residents are poor.

Admittedly Jimmy was walking very slowly.  The fatigue of the day and the worry over his hospitalized friend was causing him to making his way at a snail’s pace, almost dragging his feet.  When he was just six blocks short of the house, a patrol car (No. 1165) stopped him.

After going through the normal routine, the officer informed Jimmy that he was walking too slowly – a charge that seemed quite suspicious.  Violating his rights, the officer searched through all my Jimmy’s belongings right there in the street.  What he discovered in his backpack was an old computer hard disk that he had been given.

“Do you know what this represents?” asked the perceptive agent.  Confronted with such an inane question, you can imagine Jimmy’s face.  It seems the officer had watched too many episodes of the TV seriesLas razones de Cuba[a cloak and dagger series of documentaries on plots against the island] whose uncritical viewing can cause difficult-to-cure paranoia.

Perhaps he thought that with the hard disk and a surf board he could start up a business — managed by satellite with the collaboration of the CIA — that could illegally traffic people to Florida.  It’s difficult to predict what a fertile imagination can come up with once cultivated by our discerning TV programming.

Officer Maso (the policeman’s name), after driving Jimmy through the Marianao neighborhood hunting criminals, drove him to the 6th District station.  By this point it was already 1:20 a.m.

In the district headquarters my friend had better luck.  After waiting a while, the person in charge appeared.  With the hard disk in hand and a menacing look, he asked him “Do you have any pornography in here?”  Jimmy’s negative response was enough for them to let him go.

Returning to the house on foot was the worst part of the punishment.  The almost comical passages described here weren’t enough to give Jimmy the energy he needed.  Full of rage, he called to tell me that everything was OK and that he’d be home shortly.

As for me I just sat there thinking about what an absurd excuse the policeman had used to pick him up in the first place.  Could it be that they actually passed a new law establishing a minimum speed limit for pedestrians and forgot to publish it in the Official Gazette of the Republic?

Isbel Diaz

Isbel Diaz Torres: Pinar del Rio and Havana are my cities. I was born in one on March 1, 1976, and I’ve always lived in the other. I am a biologist and poet, though at times I’ve also been a musician, translator, teacher, computer geek, designer, photographer and editor. I’m very non-conformist and a defender of differences – perhaps due to always having been an ever-repressed “model child.” Nothing enthralls me more than the unknown, nature and art; these serve as my sources of mystery and development. A surprising activism has been born in me over the recent period. Though I’m not very sure how to channel it, I feel that it’s a worthy and legitimate energy. Let’s hope I have the discernment to manage it.


2 thoughts on “A Speed Limit for Pedestrians?

  • April 19, 2011 at 2:33 pm
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    Sweetie, I sincerely don’t think policeman would do that in any world. They should not be a part of the social structure.
    So glad to read yo here….!!!

  • April 17, 2011 at 7:30 am
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    In a careful world, the policeman would have stopped Jimmy and asked if he was OK, then offered him a ride home. Instead, the policeman served to make Jimmy’s life more difficult than it already was. As my friend, Michael, always says to police who harass him in New York City, “You’re supposed to serve and protect.” You’re correct, Isbel, television has such a bad effect on those who watch it. TURN OFF THE TV, WORLDWIDE!

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