Pedro P Morejon
HAVANA TIMES – Every afternoon, when I finish work, I head to the train station. There, alongside hundreds of passengers, a dirty, uncomfortable, slow train, which never leaves on schedule by the way because when it isn’t being checked over, it’s waiting for the engineer, or the engine has a problem, etc.
There is always a reason that they almost always never tell you. On the other hand, I imagine the effort it takes for mechanics to keep these old pieces of junk up and running.
It’s normal to be waiting for up to an hour before it departs. Once onboard, I only have to travel 14 km (8.5 miles) and even then it feels like eternity. I can’t imagine having to travel for the entire two hours the route lasts to the Los Palacios municipality, the final destination, but there aren’t many alternatives.
The other option for “ordinary people” who are the majority, is worse: going to the highway to “hitch a ride”, as we say here. That’s to say, wait for someone who never agreed to pick you up.
To make matters worse, the waiting room has been undergoing repairs for almost two years, and people have to crowd in a small space, nearly everyone having to stand up. During this time, people kill the wait by talking about anything and everything.
One day this week, I ran into the same situation, as was to be expected. Some young people discuss soccer. They repeatedly argue about who is better, Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi, or there are arguments between Real Madrid and Barcelona fans. To be honest, they just bore me.
A group of men talk about the national situation. The conversation turns to a subject that catches my attention: The giant African snail.
One of them, who seems to be better informed, explains that this kind of species came to the island a few years ago, reproduces a lot, as it can lay over a thousand eggs per year, and attacks any crop, even putting animals’ and human health in danger. He also explains that the authorities are adopting much-needed measures to prevent them from spreading and to wipe them out.
The majority of the group are more entertained than concerned about the news. The well-informed man confirms the dangers.
– These animals are a plague. If they come into contact with a tobacco, corn, cassava field, or anything else for that matter, they will lay it to waste in a night and not leave anything behind.
– My God! I don’t even want to think about what might happen if one of those creatures reaches my field, a farmer exclaims, clearly concerned by this news.
The well-informed man confirms that no plant is safe, that they devour everything.
– I bet you they don’t touch the marabu weeds because nobody can beat it- another man says, toning down the conversation.
– We have resisted a greater plague for years, so this small snail is going to be peanuts – adds a man with more tattoos on his body than a rock star.
That’s when the announcement is made, informing us that the train went off the rails God knows where and that the train will no longer depart. People begin to withdraw, submissively but not quietly. Some shout out a joke, others continue with their conversations as if nothing had happened. The interesting thing, though, is that I hardly ever see anyone looking sad.
I don’t know why, but I erupted into laughter right at that moment. An ironic laugh.
Sometime later, I wondered whether we are masochists or whether our attitude is nothing more than our own psychological self-defense. The truth is that with so much pent-up frustration, we have learned to laugh in the face of adversity.