The Encounter with My Friend Harry

Veronica Fernandez

Yesterday I received a call from my friend Harry.  After greeting me affectionately, he insisted on meeting me at the time and place of my choosing.  I could tell that he was anxious to tell me something important and that he had chosen me from out of his extensive list of friends.

As I expressed in a previous entry, Harry and I have known each other since our university days, over which time a beautiful friendship has remained.  No secret exists between us, but there’s also respect and trust.

I thought that when Harry wanted to see me in person it was because he wanted to open up once again and tell me something that was worrying him.  This was obvious since I knew him so well and I’m sure that he wouldn’t do that for just any reason.

I arrived on time for our meeting but I was a little nervous when wondering about what could have prompted the appointment.  The thing is that there are so many problems in our society that today you can be relatively well off and tomorrow the world can fall on top of you.

We sat down to talk and we each ordered a coffee at one of the cafeterias at the Havana bus terminal, the place I had selected since it’s close to my job.  Harry had showed up with his face full of dejection, which was understandable after he told me what had happened.

He began by telling me that since last year he had been raising certain points in all the staff meetings at his job.  In those gatherings he raised the problem of the shortage of spare parts for the computers and information systems and how air conditioning was not being used, though this is needed for those systems given our tropical climate.

The majority of people understood and knew that his complaints were true, but unfortunately there are managers who are more interested in following the orders and directives of their superiors precisely, and they care absolutely nothing about anything else that might happen.

Around one month ago, with the beginning of summer, they began implementing directives to conserve electricity, which meant not turning on air conditioning in workplaces.  Harry insisted on the matter once again and a week ago there occurred what he had been warning about all that time.

Of the only six computers they had left, now there are only three.  Plus, to the degree that summer advances the work is building up, similar to other workplaces with broken down computers, and will get even less work done.

At the same time, there no longer exist places that sell any type of computer equipment or accessories to government agencies.  In short, the situation is becoming increasingly difficult.

But that’s not the end of the matter – there’s more.

We all know of the famous “suitability process” for determining who will be let go in the pending layoffs of more than one million workers from government institutions, agencies and state-run enterprises here.  Now it turns out that Harry will be one of those who will be getting a pink slip.  It’s incredible, but it’s true.

With tears in his eyes and a knot in his throat, he could hardly speak.  Still, Harry explained to me everything that he was going through.  I had never imagined that the news would be of this magnitude, because knowing him as I do — an excellent worker, completely trustworthy with all his assignments, extremely responsible in his professional life as a computer technician — I never thought anything like this would happen to him.

Unfortunately, in this process of the “reduction of the government payroll,” not only are they getting rid of those who aren’t productive or don’t work, but also those who management sees as rubbing them the wrong way; those who tell the truth even when the truth is not what their bosses want to hear.

This type of boss works to eliminate every element of resistance to their personal road to advancement by strictly following the orders of those above.  They are people lacking the most minimal degree of sensitivity; they’re more like androids.

Who cares about these measures?  Who cares about the economic situation of each person?  Who cares about all the work Harry did for more than 20 years or the fact that he was recognized a “national vanguard worker” on several occasions for the merit of his job performance?  Who cares about the medals he won or the diplomas and honors he received?

And who cares that his income is the sole one coming into his home to maintain a family, or the fact that his parents are now both over 80?  Who cares if he ends up in the street, this person who has dedicated his life to studying and working and who never abandoned his country?

This leaves a great deal to be desired from a society where supposedly the human being has always been valued and where — according to the Marxist philosophy they taught me at the University of Havana — people are never robbed of their work or stripped of their possessions.