My friend Jorge invited me to lunch at a restaurant; it opened recently near where we work. He said it was supposed to be pretty good and fairly inexpensive. I wanted to believe him, but the thing is that every time that I hear the word “inexpensive,” something goes wrong.
If I buy myself some “inexpensive” shoes (for about 20 CUCs, or $25 USD), my mind is jolted by the fact that my monthly wage isn’t even 20 CUCs); and to make matters worse, the shoes fall apart in less than a month. We spend our lives trying to buy things that cost little and last long, but most of the times it’s the other way around.
With Jorge’s invitation the same thing occurred. We got to the restaurant, which didn’t have the slightest feeling of being a place where food was served; instead, it looked like some kind of warehouse. Plus there was a long line and the entrance was dirty. We started to have our doubts, and I wondered, “What type of restaurant is this?”
Fortunately the line began to move and suddenly we were able to enter. Inside it had air conditioning and a large number of tables; I didn’t count them, but there must have been around 40.
People were talking loudly. The tablecloths were dirty. The waiters took a long time to wait on us. They ended up compelling us to sit with two people we didn’t know… and we went along.
I believe an error is made in many sectors of our society when it comes to serving the public. People sometimes have somewhere to complain, but other times they don’t. Sometimes they know to where to turn, but they just don’t have faith in justice. Sometimes they simply believe things are supposed to work like this because they don’t know any other reality; they accept almost everything passively…like we did that afternoon.
Observing and listening to our surroundings, we could see it was one of the facilities that are planned to take the place of workplace cafeterias, the next State-run service slated for elimination.
Suddenly a waiter came and threw us the menu, almost in our faces, uttering the sentence: “This is what there is.”
I thought to myself, “Yeah, I already see what there is: The same kind of abuse and mediocrity we’re used to. And if it’s like this for their ‘grand opening,’ how’s it going to be in a few months?”
The menu was made up of five combinations. The first one had rice, beans, ham and boiled root vegetables; the second was pig fricassee, instead of ham; the third had an eighth of chicken; number four was a potato egg omelette and “congrís” (beans and rice), and fish enchilada with soup in the fifth. The prices ranged between the 7 and 15 regular pesos.
I opted for the No. 2. When served, the rice was raw and the fricassee was just about all skin and bone, but since I was starving, I ate everything eagerly.
Jorge had to eat his fricassee without a knife. No matter how hard he tried to request one, it never came. The prices have been designed based on the extra fifteen pesos we’re going to be paid to make up for the elimination of State-subsidized lunches. Apparently, the conditions in which we’ll have to eat have also been designed based on those same fifteen pesos.