The Enraged Bus

Osmel Almaguer

The P-11 Bus. Photo: Caridad

HAVANA TIMES, Nov. 30 — For more than an hour, I was waiting at the first stop of the P-11 bus in the Vedado district, I stood in the line “for those willing to ride standing”.  There’s another line for those that only want to travel seated. When I got there the line was so long that it wound around the block, so I couldn’t tell exactly how far it extended.

Then four buses came all bunched together and picked up almost everyone who had been in front of me.  So now I was strategically positioned in the line in third position to nab a place next to a window when the next one came, which is the only way to avoid suffocating in the foul atmosphere of this type of bus.

I felt I was lucky. I’d even passed up piling on the last of the four P-11s with the full faith that the next one would soon be by.  Such excessive optimism dealt me a bad hand.

The minutes began to go by slowly, and only when numbers of them had multiplied my fatigue, I came to the realization that the only buses picking up people were the ones that had already gone by.

I had calculated that I’d have to wait for about an hour more when my legs finally couldn’t take any more, so I went and sat down on the curb.  Nightfall was approaching, so another thought began to worry me: Of the four buses that had gone by, two were red, meaning that they were backup vehicles from another depot and would be pulled out of service once it got dark.

Eventually the well-disciplined line collapsed into a riotous mass.  People were getting increasingly anxious.  When the P-11 arrived, my worst fears were realized.  A sea of people rushed it, forcing me to bid farewell to my privileged position standing next to the window.

First it stopped in front of the line of “those sitting,” where the members of that queue got on along with other new arrivals who forced their way in.  Next those who were last in the line of those standing rushed to the front and piled in.  There was no one there who could control the disorder, at least so it seemed.  The bus filled up.

Then the driver prepared to let our line on.  Everybody was upset, but sheer tiredness preventing anyone acting more assertively.

Our big surprise was when the doors opened: We found a police officer there trying to make sure that people dropped their fares into the money box, while the driver yelled at us making people feel guilty for our slowness.

Blood rushed to my head and I lost my temper.  To me it was an act of negligence on the part of the police officer to be monitoring the money box and not taking measures so that people in our line could get on the bus like they should.  I also found it a low blow on the part of the driver — after his display of lassitude and lack of respect — to try to make us feel guilty by shifting the blame on us for what had happened.

I then remembered that my father had explained to me that this was a commonly used control technique employed in the armed forces.  It was called…demoralization.  I also recalled that for many years we’ve been hearing from our government that we’re the culprits behind the social chaos we’re experiencing.

The first thing that occurred to me was to call the driver “immoral” — a not very damning insult these days, and perhaps even laughable — but with that,  everybody else began to protest over what had happened.

Then they demanded the driver not stop until we got to Alamar.  I laughed inwardly at such madness.  However my laughter turned on me when I realized the driver intended to give in to the ultimatum.

In total, the bus made only two stops until I got off.  For me that was fine because I got home quicker, but what about those people who had to watch their stops pass by?

As soon as I walked in my house I told my father what had happened and asked him if there were legal mechanisms for pressing charges against what had occurred.  He told me that I could draft a complaint letter citing the bus number and the time of the incident, and present it to the Grievances Office at the municipal headquarters of the Communist Party of Cuba.

I responded to him saying that the problem would not be solved by taking action against the driver, because it was the bus system itself that was at fault for its faulty practices.

He told me, then, there was nothing that could be done, and that I shouldn’t waste my time because there was no solution.  He assured me that any complaint against the bus system would find eternal rest in the drawers of some Party office.

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.



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