Jorge Milanes Despaigne
HAVANA TIMES — When I got on the bus, I saw that the driver had his hand over the fare-box. Everyone who got on was paying him a peso.
“Driver, I don’t have any change,” said a woman who had just boarded the bus, wrestling past a crowd of people.
“If you don’t have the money to pay for the fare, get off. It’s not my fault you don’t have any change,” he said in a loud tone of voice.
“It’s not my fault either,” the woman retorted.
Those of us who were standing near the fare-box saw that the driver’s hand would invariably pocket the fare. What dexterous hand that was!
Though bus fare is forty cents, it is next to impossible to get change for a Cuban peso anywhere (save in some “banks”), and people don’t have any choice but to pay the peso.
Years ago, there were people on the bus whose job was to charge you the fare – and they would give you change. They weren’t meeting the established revenue quotas, however, and the bus company decided to eliminate that mechanism (it seems those fellows also had that “hand problem”).
Finally, after the discussion blew over, we continued on our way, like sardines in a tin, down the streets of Havana. We got to the next stop.“Walk to the back of the bus, don’t crowd by the door,” the driver said several times and again placed his hand on the moneybox. Then, when no more people could be squeezed into the bus through the front door, he leaned forward and put out his hand.
“Come on, pay up here and get on through the back.”
He realized someone had got on through the back door without paying the fare.
“What about you, aren’t you going to pay?” he asked, looking at the man through the rear-view mirror.
“I don’t have any change. If I give you the money, you have to give me change, and you’ve got plenty of it. You look after your pocket and I look after mine.” The man took out a peso and said: “Excuse me, I’m coming through to put this in the fare-box.
The transportation situation is critical and isn’t improving. Things are as difficult as making a buck (though it seems some bus drivers are “handling” it rather well).