Miguel Arias Sanchez
HAVANA TIMES — In Cuba, like in all countries, we have the option of having a mobile phone or a fixed number. We all know here there is a delay in our telecommunications network and how difficult it is to actually install this service at home.
We already know ETECSA is just one company, and that there won’t be another one for now. Even though many people already have mobile phones, there is still a large sector of the Cuban population who can’t pay for this service and continues to use public phones to communicate.
Of course, making a call on a mobile or a public phone isn’t the same thing; the privacy and tranquility with a mobile phone call is incomparable; the prices you have to pay for them just as much.
But, in order to make a call on a public phone, first you have to take some kind of sedative, whether that’s diazepam, chlordiazepoxide or something else, before you leave the house. I can tell you that from experience. When you arrive at the public phones you ask who the last person in line is and then wait your turn.
All of the phones are busy… five, ten, fifteen minutes pass and you’re nearly always left waiting in the sun, staring at the person who is talking right in the face. My face, which was calm and pleasant 20 minutes ago, transforms as the minutes goes by.
I can cough, sneeze, stare at my watch, and look them in the face again… and nothing. Those humans seem to be unchangeable. During this time, I have found out from the very same person speaking, that the neighbor opposite them cheated on her husband with the guy on the corner, and that he still hadn’t found out yet, like what normally happens, even though the whole neighborhood knows.
That the butchers where he goes to buy, stole half a pound of chicken from him and that the old lady next to him who has a special diet, got even more taken away from the son of a bitch. And meanwhile, I’m standing there as red as a tomato, and just when I think he’s going to finish, he tells his friend that they were selling amazing perfumes at work for 12 CUC and a small bag of powdered milk for 35 pesos, but it seems to be mixed up with talcum powder or starch.
Minutes go by like this to the point that I don’t even know whether I should talk on the phone or eat it, cable and all. In the end, surprise, thank God, he hangs up and I take in a deep sigh of relief.
Now calm, I pick up the receiver and dial the number of the person I want to call. A soft, singing and beautiful voice tells me: the number you have dialed is busy, please call again later. My forehead shrivels; my stomach begins to hurt because of the nuisance. I try dialing again several times and I get the same response.
Hallelujah! I dial again and I can hear the ring… I breathe relieved again, when the other side answers, I tell them to call for the person I want to talk to as she doesn’t have a telephone either and depends on the neighbor doing her a favor. While waiting, the voice comes back, this time the ugly, unpleasant and ill-timed operator tells me: your credit is 1 peso and 45 cents.
What do I care what my credit is, I think anxious, I quickly dial again, it rings this time, at least, and when they’re about to answer on the other end, the pretentious, unbearable and horrible voice returns and throws at me: your credit has run out, you are unable to make this call.
Now I really don’t understand anything and so I shout from the depths of my soul “FUUUUUUUUUCK”, I curse everything, I hang up the phone and the top-up coupon place is six blocks away.
I walk slowly, disappointed, distressed, and sad and when I look back where the phone boot is with its telephone which I just left, I see Dante’s inferno itself reflected in it.