Telephones and Turmoil

Jorge Milanes

Havana building. Photo: Ihosvanny

I don’t have a problem with telephone service, but I know the trouble a lot of people experience because they don’t have one of these devices in their homes – something so indispensible in this modern era.

Last month, a co-worker of mine came to work with the news that they would soon be assigning phones in the zone where he lives.  He had given the phone company all of his information and — luckily — it was decided that he would be given one.  Well, it wasn’t so much luck as the fact that his father is a veteran from fighting overseas on an international mission.

With all of this, the neighborhood broke out into a veritable rebambaramba (brouhaha).  There were people who started shoving and throwing blows, while others started pulling out other people’s dirty laundry by saying things like: “So-and-so doesn’t even come downstairs to do voluntary labor,” or “So-and-so sells food in the street without paying taxes” and “Maria doesn’t deserve $#!t”; in short, it was a “you lose yours so they’ll give it to me” gripe-fest.

However, the most unnerving thing happened days earlier.  A call from one of the offices of the Cuban phone company had put the community on alert.  It would be necessary for people to go to the corner supermarket at 4:00 in the afternoon, the place where the company reps were going to enter into contracts with the new clients for landline telephone service.

The news traveled like wildfire and soon more than ninety people had assembled at the entry of the supermarket, which has been plagued by infinitely long lines almost since the completion of its construction.

My friend also told me that one neighborhood resident went running to alert her mother about this big chance.  In the face of the unexpected information, the older woman hesitated but she then thanked her daughter for her exhausting sprint, even without being sure about going to the supermarket since she wasn’t convinced the information was true.  In fact she sensed the whole thing was a joke.

After a while, the daughter returned home crying: “It’s a lie! Today is December 28!” (The April Fool’s Day! in Cuba and much of Latin America”).