Freeloading Is Over

Jorge Milanes Despaigne

Bakery where rationed bread rolls are sold. Photo: Caridad

“Freeloading is over,” the grandmother shouted at her two year-old grandson as she took off her house shoe and gave him a couple of spanks.

The punishment was the product of his having climbed out of his playpen and wandered away to eat a carrot out of a fruit and vegetable stand.  That wasn’t the first time he had done that; on one occasion he had pricked his face on a pineapple.

I thought about that phrase used by the grandmother.  Although it’s true that this popular expression is used to shortcut for explaining things acquired with ease, this was not the case with the grandson’s effort.

The underlying problem stemmed from the grandmother having come back home from the bakery yesterday very upset.  She had gone to buy the rationed bread through the country’s regulated system that has now marked its fiftieth year of operation.

She brought back four small rolls with her, one for each member of the family who lived there.  The price for each biscuit is five centavos (much less than one penny USD).  She didn’t have time to go to the bank to change the twenty pesos she had, and she was resolved to change “only” one peso at the bakery and to use the change to buy a Granma newspaper and — since it was Monday — a copy of Trabajadores. However, the “saleswoman” at the place told her that she didn’t have change to give the grandmother.

This was why she came back from the bakery that morning in a bad mood.  According to her own calculations, bread now effectively costs twenty-five centavos (or four for one peso) and no one in the line complains while it’s baked with a minimum amount of flour and has the greatest percentage of air.

She doesn’t know how the bakers make such bad bread for such a high price, but she resolved to give the store’s manager a piece of her mind – and even president of the Republic himself if he gets in her way.

But the grandmother didn’t tell anyone at home — perhaps to avoid infuriating them — that when she left the saleswoman shouted at her, “Freeloading is over.”