By Pedro Pablo Morejon
HAVANA TIMES – Sometimes, I forget the everyday displeasure of having to wait in line, because luckily, I have a good neighbor who does me the favor of avoiding them.
She almost always buys me some of the items I get through the meagre basic rations assigned to us.
As many of you know, the State issues a rations booklet it uses to sell rice, beans, sugar, coffee, cooking oil, chicken, eggs… in such trivial amounts that it’s barely enough to cover the first third of the month.
Well, I was recently reminded of the effects of waiting in line. Although I see them every day, because you have to wait in line for everything here in Cuba. You have no other choice.
A few days ago, I had to go out and look for the pound of chicken I get through the ration booklet every month. The fridge is empty and ever since the government established price caps, pork (which was already expensive) can’t be found easily anywhere.
I went early in the morning, but as soon as I arrived, I found a crowd that, quite frankly, was intimidating. I asked who was last in line, and I got ready to patiently wait out hours, because I understood I was going to be there a good while, from the very beginning.
People didn’t stop arguing, they were all on top of each other without any fear of becoming infected with COVID-19. I noticed that some people who came last in line, were more skilled and shameless, and managed to cut in the line and buy in front of everybody else, who protested in vain.
The manager came out twice saying that it wasn’t her job to organize the line, asking the crowd to keep their distance from one another and threatened to stop selling.
“I won’t be fined because of you,” you could see that she was stressed.
The saddest thing would be if she did good on her threat, for we ran the risk of receiving the chicken in poor condition, because the freezer for storing the product wasn’t freezing properly.
We were there a good while and the Head of the Sector came (the police officer in charge of a neighborhood, town or rural area), who began to try and organize the line that had become disorganized. As lots of people had cut in and nobody knew who was behind who, things began to get heated. There were signs it was going to become a rowdy brawl.
I was disgusted by so much humiliation. I thought about leaving, but my commitment to doing the same for my neighbor made me endure that suffering. I couldn’t leave when she had suffered all those times in my place.
So, there I was… under a scorching sun, fighting amidst people at the edge of their nerve.
A woman complained and these were her words:
“This only happens in Puerta de Golpe, people organize themselves in Pinar and this insolence doesn’t happen.”
But I know that’s not true. I walk down the city’s streets pretty much every day, I see lines everywhere and I can see the same arguments and verbal violence among citizens.
Some three hours passed like this, until I could finally buy my pound of chicken.
A whole morning of anxiety to get a sad and simple pound of chicken.