By Safie M. Gonzalez
HAVANA TIMES – When it comes to lines, I think Cuba takes first place, and not just because they have become even longer now and you have to wait longer as a result of the pandemic. But it’s also true that both Cubans yesterday and today, with or without a pandemic, are a sociable, curious and supportive people. In five hours, you hear and see many stories unfold.
Not too far away from me, there was an almost 80-year-old woman. She had been there since 4 AM, just like me and the other 200-or-so people in the line, to get a ticket and wait her turn to buy at the store.
(I must clarify that this happened just before the new procedure of handing out tickets for the next day came into practice)
The woman was taking great care to hide herself from the police every time they passed by, as it’s a well-known fact that the elderly are the most vulnerable right now. So, she was afraid of being discovered and sent back home before she had a chance to buy the things she desperately needed.
I wondered, why does this woman need to be here? Isn’t there anyone else in her family who could come instead? Then, as if the woman had heard my thoughts, and maybe because somebody else with the same concern had asked, the woman explained that she lives alone with her daughter and grandson, but that her daughter is in the hospital. She had suffered a stroke a few days ago and her grandson was taking care of her at the hospital. “If I’m not here, in this line, who would buy food for the house?”
At 10 AM, without a chair, or a rock at least to sit on, she fanned herself and would lower her mask from time to time to drink a little bit of water. “On top of that, I can’t buy another packet of chicken, as they are only selling one per person.”
It’s easy to say “Stay at home”, but how do you ask this poor old woman well over 70 years to not wake up at the crack of dawn, and walk nearly 4 kms to the store? Who can demand that she doesn’t stand in such a long line under the sun, to buy chicken for her daughter in the hospital?
What could be done in these kinds of situations?
In the end, and with the help of some of us in line, the woman was able to sit on the grass, on a plastic bag and wait for her ticket number to be called out.