Maria Matienzo Puerto
In the beginning it was a secret. I don’t mean a secret-secret; it was talk in the building corridors. You could hear faceless voices saying: “On his job, ‘so-and-so’ was determined to be redundant, so they gave him the choice between farm work or construction. The poor guy; he’s hesitant to take either, but what’s he gonna to do. They gave him one month with pay and after that he’s on his own.”
But let’s give a little background info on so-and-so.
He’s a regular guy, the type who was well suited to pressing a button for the money they paid him, and especially because it was the only thing he knew how to do. He spent about five years pressing a button, which was the same thing as turning off a light, answering a telephone or fixing computers.
Of course compared to “what’s-his-name,” who’s a veteran in pressing a button, five years is nothing. What’s-his-name, a rank and file member of the Party, has more experience than so-and-so, who’s only thirty something and is still strong enough to assume another job (it doesn’t matter how unrelated it is from what so-and-so studied, which certainly had to do with the button he was required to press daily).
That’s why they considered that construction or agriculture was not a big problem for him. Plus, he was still left with the option of doing nothing – and I mean nothing. He could always just sit at home waiting for a door to open.
That’s how it was at the beginning. The so-and-sos who were laid off were those who didn’t produce. They were the last hired, irresponsible workers or those who didn’t have much experience.
Now it can be anybody.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a good person or a top-notch security guard, editor, clerk, administrator, engineer or a technical specialist in pressing those indispensable buttons. If you’re not on the list, you’re out of a job.
This very thing happened to a friend of mine, who —like almost all my friends— is a poet. He was left unemployed in one of those job cuts announced in the press. Though the only thing my friend knows how to do is write, he was able found out that the executive director of the institution where he had worked was leaving him with the alternative of selling fritas* (fast food).
The only problem is that my friend doesn’t know how to cook.
* Formerly in Cuba there existed sandwich carts where all types of fried food were sold. That’s why all fast foods sold across the island today are called “ fritas”.