On Cuba’s Public Bathrooms

Osmel Almaguer

HAVANA TIMES — The waiting room of the emergency ward at Havana’s Luis Dias Soto (or Naval) Hospital has only one bathroom for both genders. The women’s bathroom has been closed up for a while now – since February, at least – and everyone uses the men’s lavatory.

The sink in this bathroom doesn’t work. This, however, doesn’t stop a lady – presumably a cleaning woman – from setting up a small table next to the entrance to charge you a Cuban peso for the service.

To be fair, this woman makes an effort to be kind and keep her workplace clean. There is something to be said for the fact the bathroom is always relatively clean.

After one pays to use the bathroom once, one may continue to use it free of charge the rest of the day. Even though it’s a hospital, where patients often have very difficult situations all around, if the money goes to keeping the bathroom clean, I can understand the small fee.

But I have my doubts about where the money collected every day ends up. I would like to think it’s used to buy cleaning products. However, I suspect that money is already included in the budget the hospital allocates to general janitorial work. I sometimes also think that someone is collecting money to get the other bathroom working again, or to install dearly needed running water in the two bathrooms. To date, nothing of the sort has happened.

It would be unfair to conclude the woman keeps the money, for I have no proof of this. Something tells me, however, that, if this hypothesis were true, it would not be the worst case scenario. The money, after all, could end up in someone else’s hands, someone who doesn’t even have to work in the bathroom all day.

I know people’s low incomes and needs are used to justify practically every misdeed in the country, but wrong is wrong and we can’t call it any other way.

According to my calculations, the lady at the bathroom must collect some 50 pesos every day, for a total of 1,500 a month. That should be more than enough to have a fully functional bathroom.

Charging people to use the bathroom has become common in the country. It’s the way some establishments have of making extra money. The problem is that the money always ends up in the pockets of someone who doesn’t look after the bathrooms, and these are often disgustingly filthy and without running water.

osmel

Osmel Almaguer:Until recently I would to identify myself as a poet, a cultural promoter and a university student. Now that my notions on poetry have changed slightly, that I got a new job, and that I have finished my studies, I’m forced to ask myself: Am I a different person? In our introductions, we usually mention our social status instead of looking within ourselves for those characteristics that define us as unique and special. The fact that I’m scared of spiders, that I’ve never learned to dance, that I get upset over the simplest things, that culminating moments excite me, that I’m a perfectionist, composed but impulsive, childish but antiquated: these are clues that lead to who I truly am.


6 thoughts on “On Cuba’s Public Bathrooms

  • January 8, 2017 at 1:28 pm
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    Finding that middle ground is the hardest part.

  • January 7, 2017 at 10:02 pm
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    It is just one of the many consequences of pure socialism, which tells you that it does not work contrary to what young, leftist liberals in capitalist countries with no first-hand experience of living in a communist country believe. However, a purely capitalist system creates massive inequalities. The best is a compromise of the two–with capitalism supporting the drive but tempered by the spirit of socialist egalitarianism–Bernie Sander’s vision for the United States.

  • January 7, 2017 at 9:58 pm
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    End the Castro regime and have working toilets?? I support that!

  • August 24, 2014 at 8:28 pm
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    Who can we blame for this????……If you ask Elio Delgado or Walter Teague they will tell you that the plumber in the hospital or the cleaning people are the responsible ones or more probably they will blame the non existing and convenient embargo or blockade like they surely will call the couple of weak sanctions yet in place…….

    it is impossible to keep clean a toilet seat that does not flush or clogged urinary or semi clogged toilet sinks in a hospital where the plumber have no spear parts and tools and construction materials needed to make the restroom to work properly; where the cleaning crew have no chemicals and tools to clean ……….it is no possible for plumbers and cleaners to work in a workmanlike way if the state owned company in charge of supplying them with all needed stuff cannot to find these stuff in the local state owned market just because the factories that before produced toilets, urinaries, sinks, the parts of these white goods, the pipes, elbows, and nipples for plumbing and the other factories that produced cleaning chemicals, tools of all kinds and construction material are long ego destroyed because regime’s disastrous economic and diplomatic policies….. or……. all needed stuff can’t be bought to China or Canada because the regime is not capable to create richness and accumulate it in enough amount to import them……….by the contrary the regime drove the economy and the country to depend of subsides from foreign powers and mini powers…… and……. sell the natural and human resources of the country to the international capital that after profit the country take out to their countries their share .
    Definitively it is the regime of castro brothers the one to blame for this non working restrooms….. definitively this regime must go out and make place to capable people, …… new people with the capability to maintain working the country;s public restrooms.…

  • August 22, 2014 at 2:13 am
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    The whole charging to use the bathroom thing really threw me off when I first visited Cuba. I never got the impression that it was an official fee, I always assumed the person collecting it was pocketing it, and I’ve yet to see any evidence that counters this.

    I generally just walk right past these people, I just don’t recognize the concept of paying to use a public washroom, and I’m not going to do it. I’ve learned to carry my own tissue with me when I’m in public, because that’s the kicker they usually use to try to make you pay – you are buying the toilet paper because there isn’t any inside. I also fully believe that this is a scam being perpetrated by the person posted outside — that they go in and take all the paper out and then try to sell it back to you.

    I do not believe that it’s a coincidence that you can tell in advance if a given place is going to charge for the toilet. The nicer the place, the more they are catering specifically to tourists rather than locals, the less likely that anyone is asking you to pay. The lower end the place, the more public it is, the more run down the neighborhood is, the more likely that you’ll see it.

  • August 20, 2014 at 5:56 am
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    Once again, it is the lack of accountability that is at the root of the problem. In Cuba, it is rare that someone will lose their job or suffer consequences of any sort for failing to meet ‘customer’ needs. Although it is just one bathroom in one hospital, it represents the same old story repeated all over Cuba. The government can do (or not do) whatever it chooses leaving the Cuban people with no choice but to take it or leave it. Even if that means paying to use a public bathroom with no running water.

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