A Havana Hack Job

Jorge Milanes Despaigne

Photo: Caridad

Not long ago my neighbor Robin, who has a lot in Havana’s Playa municipality, was cutting the tall grass and taking care of the rubble that had been dumped on his property. He plans to build a house there for his children, though he’s aware of the burdensome paperwork to the water and electric meters.

A few days earlier he had gone to the provincial office of the Urban Green Areas trying to get authorization to cut down a tree on his land. The roots of a quickly growing “ocuje” tree had broken through the sidewalk, which would have to be replaced once the tree was chopped down. On that occasion no one at the office was able to help him, but he was able to find out what day and hours he could return.

He returned on Wednesday morning but found out that a meeting of the specialists was being held, though he couldn’t understand why they had chosen to meet on the only day when they attend to the public. He therefore went to the director’s secretary, the only person available at that time to attend to him – or rather to cover for her boss.

He was soon seen by the secretary, who very kindly gave him “The Guide,” the technical regulations for cases like his, but she explained that their agency had no vehicles to remove the tree and that the cutting equipment was out of service at that time.

However, she told him about some people who did that kind of work independently, which was the beginning of a few unimagined surprises.

The day of the felling of the ocuje tree, Robin negotiated good price with the loggers.

In the middle of cutting job, the woman whose house is next to his lot — Luisa — intruded and said to the men, “Wow, that’s great that you’re cutting down the tree. Did you charge Robin a lot?”

She then added, “Look, he has two children in Mexico. The son is a musician and the daughter is a businesswoman.”

Fortunately, the loggers weren’t completely abusive, but as a result of Luisa’s malicious meddling, Robin would have to pay even more for the work.