Save Yourself If You Can

A man shouts save yourself if you can, the tide is rising every day that passes – Carlos Varela

Por Pedro Pablo Morejon

Public transport in rural Cuba during the best of times. Photo: naturalezayviajes.com

HAVANA TIMES – I recently needed to make a trip. Transport is awful right now. To tell you the truth, it’s always been bad, but it’s got worse with the Pandemic because transport options have become limited for your average Cuban.

I left the San Diego Junction heading for Puerta de Golpe at 7:30 AM. It is 34 km to get there, plus the same distance to get back. I returned at 5 PM. I spent over 6 hours on the highway during that time.

Something interesting happened to me on my way back. I got off at one of those bridges on the highway (sometimes you can only travel from one junction to the next), when I heard a cellphone ringing. I looked all around me and I couldn’t see anyone. I followed the sound and found the cellphone on a wall under the slope of the bridge. It was a Samsung in excellent condition, all new and shiny. A lot better than my tiny and worn-out Huawei. I put it in my briefcase with the illusion of keeping it. It seems someone must have been there a few minutes before and had left it.

For a few minutes, I thought about the alternatives to taking out the SIM card, throwing it away and putting mine in. Or I could give it back to the owner if they appeared to reclaim it. Being the sentimental person full of principles that I am, I didn’t do that. I chose instead to wait to see if they called again, because I couldn’t unlock it without the passcode. However, in my gut, I wished nobody would call, wishing nobody would show up. I wished that somebody would pick me up to take me away from there. I wished to keep it.

But a guy turned up on an electric moped a short while later, somewhat jittery. He asked me if I had seen a phone with X characteristics around there. He said he had left it and when I gave it back to him, he gave me a satisfied smile, took off on the moped and didn’t even say thank you.

Did I do the right thing? Some of you would think I did, the majority will think I was a perfect idiot, I think I am sometimes too… I’m no saint but I still have certain moral atavisms. That put me at a disadvantage when we live in a society where men hunt men.

Later, a modern car belonging to the Cubataxi Company stopped when I waved a note in the air. I gave the driver the money and got in. Further ahead, crossing the Consolacion del Sur bridge, two men waved their own fans of notes, I guess they must have been 100 and 50 peso bills.

“Look, look, those are nuclear weapons,” said the driver, who ended up being a nice and hard-working man. He put on the brakes immediately and reversed.

The two guys, who looked like criminals, offered him 500 pesos each to take them to Havana.

“Do they let you cross the border?”

“Nobody stops this car. But guys you’re not carrying beef or anything problematic in those packages are you?

“Nothing like that, asere.

He put the packages in the trunk and they got in. It turns out they were heading for Marianao, where the driver said he was going.

Socio you gave me a pearl rifle but these people have come with tracer guns,” he said with ease about the money they offered.

We all laughed. We then talked about the situation here in Cuba. How things are dire, how Havana is about to explode. How everything is so expensive and you can’t find anything, just like in Pinar del Rio.

I got off at the Paso Real bridge and another guy got in waving a note.

It’s strange now for somebody to help someone else out without expecting something in return. The situation is becoming harder and harder, and everything has a price. It’s a matter of saving yourself if you can.

Read more from Pedro Pablo Morejon here on Havana Times.

Pedro Morejón

I am a man who fights for his goals, who assumes the consequences of his actions, who does not stop at obstacles. I could say that adversity has always been an inseparable companion, I have never had anything easy, but in some sense, it has benefited my character. I value what is in disuse, such as honesty, justice, honor. For a long time, I was tied to ideas and false paradigms that suffocated me, but little by little I managed to free myself and grow by myself. Today I am the one who dictates my morale, and I defend my freedom against wind and tide. I also build that freedom by writing, because being a writer defines me.


One thought on “Save Yourself If You Can

  • April 6, 2021 at 5:38 pm
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    Pedro questions himself and the readers: “Did I do the right thing? Some of you would think I did, the majority will think I was a perfect idiot, I think I am sometimes too…” I am sure Pedro will receive a myriad of responses: some agreeing totally with his altruistic act of giving the lost phone unequivocally back to its owner – the owner could at least have had the common decency to have said “thank you”; others, will equivocate and say “finders keepers, losers weepers.”

    I suppose what differentiates the two extremes is one’s upbringing. One’s education either from school, at home, a religion, or elsewhere if it is grounded in moral and ethical teachings, whether those teachings stem from religion or not, will have a tremendous impact on how one behaves when put into such a dilemma as Pedro experienced.

    If one has been grounded in the belief “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” for sure that entrenched Christian conscious will impact ethical action. For this individual to not do the “right” or ethical thing would bother the person to no end possibly interfering with his sleep and interaction with others. In fact, if the conscious torment is extremely pervasive and debilitating that phone Pedro found will be discarded or given away to rid and relieve a conscious unable to deal with its negative dissonance.

    Some one not brought up with any moral or ethical education will also have a conscious but a weaker one, or none at all for some, which pathologically can then lead to major psychological problems for the individual. This individual lives life in the survival of the fittest mode. That phone found lying there with no claimer around, certainly not the owner, and a very valuable piece of technology for any Cuban and not economically attainable for the finder consequently keeping the valuable treasure should be a no brainer, or as Pedro states returning the phone to its rightful owner an act of “…a perfect idiot.”

    Pedro disavows himself or certainly wonders how his altruistic act fits in with his society, the Cuban society he lives in. “That put me at a disadvantage when we live in a society where men hunt men.” Everyone knows that today’s Cuban society is harsh, brutal, and non forgiving. A Cuban knows to survive in such a society one has to rely not on altruistic instinct but to do whatever it takes to survive whether it is morally justified or not. In other words the survival in the jungle mentality.

    Those who live in a rich and plentiful Western society are not subjected to those extreme and painful day to day moral and ethical dilemmas and decisions that many Cubans have to make regularly. Pedro knows full well if a man has the opportunity to ingratiate himself with something of value at a stranger’s expense then why not? Metaphorically “if the fruit is ripe for the picking” why would one not take advantage of the “opportunity” presented? Some can live that way out of necessity and openly justify it; others can not no matter how hard life is or becomes. Ingrained morals and ethics predominate.

    In the final analysis, Pedro ends: “It’s strange now for somebody to help someone else out without expecting something in return.” From a moral perspective, yes. Whether from a Christian persuasion, where it is called “grace”, or from a non religious view where it is called “karma” those who partake in helping others without expecting nothing in return are indeed rewarded usually more than they expected.

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