I Thought Someone Was Pulling My Leg

Veronica Fernandez

Havana Bus. Photo: Caridad

I had heard talk about the issue, but I thought these were more exaggerations that we Cubans tend to make; I figured someone was just pulling my leg.  My neighbor told me that a few days earlier he had taken one of the “P” buses, the long articulated ones, and that the passengers were upset and started complaining because they couldn’t move to the rear.

My neighbor, getting an earful of all the racket, was also disturbed and asked what the problem was.  Immediately someone responded saying that in that same bus some people had brought on an armoire, tables, seats and even a cradle.

This is a lack of respect for the passengers, some people protested.  Others claimed that the veritable moving crew had given money to the driver.  In short, thousands of arguments were circulating from one end of the vehicle to the other, and with good reason.

In less than a week after that occurred, I myself would experience the same thing.  In effect, I got on the number 58 bus, which heads from the east of Havana to Revolution Square, and at the first stop two men got on carrying a large table and accompanied by a pit bulldog, which also situated itself in the middle of the bus.

Like in the other incident, the protests and complaints began, as could have been expected.  Notwithstanding, the driver paid no attention and simply continued driving along with incredible tranquility.  So as not to hear the passengers, he simply turned the volume on the radio all the way up blasting reggaeton music.

You can probably imagine what happened along the way.  There was everything from screams, to curse words and even fighting.  All this ended up requiring the bus to make an emergency stop at the Luis Diaz Soto Military Hospital to drop off one person who was now suffering from high blood pressure, another with pain in their chest and two others who had been injured in the exchange of blows.

The bus remained stopped with the doors shut there while the police were called.  To the fortune of many, and the misfortune of others, out of the bus were led some thirty people (among them me) to tell the officers now on the scene what had happened during the course of the trip.

The driver was then taken to the closest police station, those injured and or suffering ailments were treated in the hospital, and the rest of us who hadn’t suffered any direct harm were left there with no way to get to our destination.  I wondered: What sense can be made out of this situation?  How can such negligence be explained?  Why are such things occurring on our public transportation?  Who can put a stop to such events for once and for all?

This had seemed almost impossible and even like something out of a fiction story when my neighbor first told me about it.  But in fact it’s necessary to experience it to believe it, and this was exactly what happened to me.  In addition to having witnessed people trying to move furniture on a bus, I had to be a participant in such a violent and painful situation.

All this allowed me to think about a lot of things.  It made me think how bus drivers are allowing these moves because they represent a couple pesos more in their hands to face the high cost of living.

Also, I realized that people have to resort to this method of moving furniture because they don’t have the money to rent the vehicle they need.  Though they give these drivers some cash, it is always less than what they would be charged by others to do the same thing.

I noted the lack or nonexistent control that clearly exists on public transportation in the Cuban capital, that no one cares about anything, and that unfortunately we’re in the day-to-day politics of everyone for themselves.

Will the institutions ever take measures that contribute to the organization of Cuban society?  Meanwhile, I think it’s necessary to begin to organize ourselves, to respect each other, to educate ourselves, to make demands on ourselves to be able to face the new measures of mass government layoffs and the approaching restructuring of the work force.

I’m of the opinion that we’ve lost many values starting from the pressing Special Period economic crisis of the 1990s, and that every day we’re getting that much further from being able to recover.  Nevertheless, we should not lose faith in others and much less in…hope.

Veronica Fernadez

Veronica Fernandez: I was born in the town of Regla, on the other side of Havana Bay. Over the years, many people from Regla have gone to live in Cojimar, fleeing the contamination from the petroleum refinery in Regla. That's what my family did when I was just four years old. Since I was a little girl I have been drawn to the arts and letters. Poetry and narrative writing are my favorites. I had the good fortune to study philology, a branch of the human sciences dealing with language and literature, at the University of Havana with top notch professors. As a Capricorn, I adore organization, people who are mature, the romantic things in life and the lack of self-interest that is the backbone of these times. I enjoy our typical Cuban food, (white rice, black beans, pork and yucca with garlic sauce) and also Italian food. I also like chocolate and drinking a mojito (rum cocktail) in the historic center of my city.