Warhol P.

Bank on Galiano St.
Bank on Galiano St.

HAVANA TIMES – Those who read this article may accuse me of exaggerating, or maybe think that I’m stealing a scene written by the Spanish director Almodovar who is so given to mixing drama and comedy.

Others might allege that I’m just a person with very bad luck; still others may believe that it’s all a fabrication and that I’m writing to get rich, or because groups from the Empire are sponsoring my articles. All of these allegations are very distant from reality.

In fact, there is nothing more bona fide than this story of events that occurred in my life just a few days ago in this wonderful city.

It happened that I had to cash a check for author’s rights. I had felt very happy when I received the news of this check, because money is always welcome and since our crisis is eternal, I generally Iack even enough money to buy eggs.  Anyway, at the moment I received the news, I felt like the happiest man on earth.

Up until this point, all was well. As I set off toward the center of Havana, I did feel a bit of trepidation that the person who was supposed to be holding the check for me could have taken a day off from work, meaning I would be making the trip in vain. But I was wrong – arriving at the appointed place, I found the person who very amiably delivered the expected check to me.

I then left and began looking for a bank. By then it was almost 12 noon and I needed the money to buy something to eat. Later, I planned to go to a pharmacy and buy a medication that the doctor had prescribed for my stomach.

It’s at this point in the story that the headaches began. The first bank that I found along the way was closed for fumigation. I didn’t understand why they should have to fumigate a bank so early, but so it was: the bank would be closed until the next day.

There was nothing else for me to do except find another bank and tighten my belt.

I crossed the central park and after a long walk I found another bank.  When I tried to go in, a man who was seated just beside the door informed me that they were closed, that they had finished work at noon.

It’s at that point that I begin to become impatient and uncomfortable, because how can it be possible for such a thing to occur in a country that needs to progress and offer a better life to its citizens. Two closed banks and me without a cent in my pocket and a check to cash.

One woman told me that the worst days were when the pension checks for the elderly were issued, that on those days there would be many people between seventy and eighty years old standing there on their feet for hours, without anyone taking an interest in their situation.

The worker told me that I could go to the bank that was a bit further, on Galiano St. between Reina and San Jose. This bank should be open until 3:00 p.m. When I arrived there was a line of about 8 people. I took a deep breath and felt more relieved, supposing that I would get in quickly.

After about fifteen minutes, I noted that the line had continued in the same place, without moving. Other people began to arrive, but no one entered the bank. In the line were some people who seemed to live close by, and they began to complain about the slowness that characterized the bank; others alleged that on other occasions they had made complaints about the delays, but nothing had changed.

One woman told me that the worst days were when the pension checks for the elderly were issued, that on those days there would be many people between seventy and eighty years old  standing there on their feet for hours, without anyone taking an interest in their situation.

I reflect that if Fidel Castro had to stand in one of these lines with his brother, they would understand what that’s like, but in reality – What could they know of queues?

They must know that we live in the country of queues, but I doubt that even once in their lives they’ve shared this experience with those elderly people.

Forty minutes go by and only four people go in. Later some friends appear, and they enter as if the rest of us didn’t exist. Others try to situate themselves further ahead and eventually chaos breaks out because everyone’s so tired of standing that they feel the need to enter once and for all to solve their problem.

I finally enter, and sit down on one of the little benches in front of six tellers of whom only one young man and one woman are working and serving the customers.

After I’ve been sitting for awhile, another teller arrives who seemed to have been eating lunch. She sits down and begins to chat with one of the bank guards. They talk and talk before she begins to work. About twenty minutes pass in this way. Those of us who are by now inside look at each other and smile, but we can’t do anything except continue to sit there for around fifteen minutes more.

I reflect that if Fidel Castro had to stand in one of these lines with his brother, they would understand what that’s like, but in reality – What could they know of queues? They must know that we live in the country of queues, but I doubt that even once in their lives they’ve shared this experience with those elderly people.

When my turn comes, I am supposed to go with the woman who is attending window #2.  I go up to the window and she tells me that I need to wait because she has a lot of money to count first.

I return to my place and wait another ten minutes before I am called to window #5, if memory serves, where the young man with a sour face is attending. Now standing before him, I wish him a good afternoon and he gives me an angry look. I thought that maybe he isn’t having a good day, or maybe he doesn’t like homosexuals.

I hand my check over to him, and he then proceeds to examine it fastidiously, all but passing it under a microscope. After examining it from the front and the back, with an assassin’s expression he informs me that he can’t cash this check because it has a signature written on top of a seal and that isn’t correct. I explain to him that I’ve been waiting for a long time, but he still shakes his head in a “no”.

At the point of dropping dead of a heart attack, I ask him to call over a manager to consult.  He looks at the check again and from his seat begins to yell for a man who can be seen through a glass. He yells several times until the man appears, and he explains to him the situation with the check.

This man examined the check and he told him that there was no problem with it, but at any rate he then thought it convenient to go check with another person. He took my check and the young man with the sour manners said to me, “Move away, over there.”  It seemed that I couldn’t be there in front of the window, or maybe he thought I was infected with a lethal and contagious virus.

Another person stepped in for him to attend, and after awhile the manager returned with my check, saying that it was correct, and the teller could cash it with no problem.

Even so, the young man continued saying that if it turned out to be bad it wasn’t going to be his problem. At last he handed me the money, I wished him a good afternoon and without looking back I left the bank.

Immediately, I went to the pharmacy to buy my medicine. Upon arriving at the pharmacy there was only one clerk. She was sitting down, figuring the day’s accounts with a calculator. I asked her if they had the medication I needed and she didn’t respond.

I asked again, but she seemed to be deaf, since she didn’t answer, but just kept working on the accounts. Apparently I’m an invisible man.

I decided not to buy the medicine, and headed out to get a taxi. I never take taxis, they’re expensive, but today I granted myself the luxury because I knew that if I got on a public bus at three in the afternoon, I wouldn’t make it home alive.


Nonardo Perea

Nonardo Perea: I see myself as an observant person and I like to write with sincerity what I think and live first hand. I’m shy and of few words; thus it’s difficult for me to engage in conversation. For that reason, my best tool for communicating is writing. I live in Marianao, Havana and am 40 years old.

One thought on “Cuba Scenes Worthy of an Absurdist Comedy

  • Have had a similar experience when I tried to simply change large bills for smaller ones. There is benefit when the banks must compete fort business.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *