How a Nice Friendship Might Begin

Yusimi Rodriguez

Bus stop. Photo: Caridad

HAVANA TIMES, August 4 — I’m on the bus again.  It’s five-thirty in the afternoon, and all that people want to do is get home.  So do I.  Bus stops are beginning to seem like they were in the nineties crisis.  Two years ago, when new buses and routes appeared, we thought our problems with public transportation were gone.  Now, reality has proven us wrong.

Today I caught the bus at the first bus stop, so I’m standing in an almost comfortable spot, without disturbing anyone and without being disturbed.  I know it won’t last, but for a while I can look around and feel like a spectator watching a movie.

Like in a movie

There is a middle-aged woman standing close to the door and a middle-aged man standing behind her.  As we get to the second bus stop, people almost assault the bus and come close to killing each other to get on.  The middle-aged man is now crushed against the middle-aged woman and soaking her with his sweat.  It’s inevitable and they both know it.

Rush hour bus ride. Photo: Caridad

They’ve gotten used to it, as we all have.  He is being crushed by someone else, who in turn is being crushed by another person, and so on.  Instead of complaining, the woman looks at the man with sympathy and resignation.  The man apologizes and offers her his hand towel to wipe some of the sweat off.

They are both tired.  They have taken buses their whole lives and none of this is new to them. The woman says she now has to continue working at home.  She has to cook for herself and her son, who gets home later.  The man has to cook too, but only for himself.  They are both divorced.  She has a son.  He is childless.

They catch the bus at the same stop every day, at the same time, but they had never spoken. And today, they wouldn’t have either if the bus hadn’t been so crowded, forcing them to stand pressed against each other.

They are usually pinned against people who complain all the time without trying to understand the situation.  Today, despite the unbearable heat and his elbow in her ribs, they both smile. They would have talked even longer had the driver not been driving so fast, as people inside screamed out of fear for their lives.

The woman says that fortunately she’s getting off on the next stop, but that she will catch the bus again at the same time tomorrow.  The driver doesn’t stop at the official bus stop, but five blocks after it, so she’ll have to walk five blocks back with her bag.

Nonetheless she smiles.  This is just the usual same old thing.  She gets off and waves to the man.  He does the same.

Yes, this would have been a nice story.  It’s a pity it only happened that way in my mind.

Now, here’s what really happened:

The middle-aged man wanted to walk to the back of the bus, but the lady was standing in the way, just in front of the door.  The man asked her to move, but she said she couldn’t because she was getting off at the next stop.  The bus stopped five blocks before the stop, but she didn’t budge.

She argued that this was not the designated bus stop and that the driver had to stop at the official one.  The man told her the driver wouldn’t stop there and therefore it would be better if she got off and let people move, she was in the way.  She insisted that the driver had to stop at the official bus stop (and she had a point).

But it was the man who was right in the end, because the driver stopped five blocks after the official stop.  When the woman could finally get off (now she would have to walk all the way back), the man yelled at her: “Stupid bitch. Now you have to walk anyway, you fat cow.”

The woman hollered back, “You need to go wash your stupid funky ass.”  The bus drove on.  I could only feel sad about the woman, about the man, about us all, because we’ve gotten used to this.  The best way to solve problems is by insulting each other, and we even enjoy it.  End of story.

3 thoughts on “How a Nice Friendship Might Begin

  • Is the movie to which you refer the “Lista de Espera?” A great movie! The transportation system hasn’t changed much IN THE LAST 40 (50?) YEARS!!! You shouldn’t really complain about being let off a mere five blocks before–or after–the “official” stop! In early 1970, after a weekend in Habana, I attempted to return to my campamento via local bus. During the two hour trip (we too had to stand up, squished together, all the way back, as the bus passed through San Jose de las Lajas and many other towns; the end of the this trip, however, turned out to be Madruga, rather than Aguacate, and I had to walk the final lonely 10+ km. stretch!

  • LLegue de Cuba ayer, me recomendaron este blog, esta bueno. Un saludo para mi hermano Eduardo.

  • The transportation issue have always been a chronic problem in Havana and mostly any other place in Cuba. Obviously almost everyone has to relied on public transportation. Havana in particular should have a better system than just buses. Maybe they should think about a metro system. A metro will probably cost a lot of money but it should solve the problem or at least soften it.
    Setting up lines for the busiest segments like from Vedado to Old Havana or from vedado to playa or from vedado to the beaches in the east of havana. That will sure solve a huge headache.

    Now there is something else this article points to that I have wonder before. About the degradation of the Cuban culture to be talking with such disrespect. Who’s fault is that?
    The government or the people?
    I guess it is one of those questions similar to the who come first the chicken or the egg?
    If there was good transportation provided by the government then people will not misbehave on the other hand people should no behave that way even if the transportation is terrible. So is making a bad situation worst.

    I have forgotten riding like those guys near the exit doors hanging on the outside of the bus. I remember I once did that in Havana when I was in the University studying, what an adrenaline rush!
    Also remember the smell of some people who did not have deodorant. Some will get into the bus dirty it was a surprise what you will find. Many times I resorted to just walk. I wonder how a person with physical disabilities will be able to ride there? it will be next to impossible!
    Also remember about the bus not stopping on the designated place to stop. I used to walk like 100 meters forward if the bus stop was to full because I knew the bus will not stop on the actual stop but some times the bus will stop before the stop so it was a guessing game or gamble.

    For foreigners it will be a real socialist adventure one they could share with Cubans!
    I wonder if Grok will enjoy it? 🙂

    What is the real reason that transportation is so bad in Cuba?
    Any ideas?

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