By Michael Ritchie
HAVANA TIMES — It must be a joke. That’s what I thought when I first passed through Havana’s José Martí International Airport and discovered that there are no toilet seats in the restrooms.
People of Cuba, this is the 21st Century. Do you want to take a back seat to the rest of civilization?
José Martí Airport is, for tourists, their first impression of Cuba. I mean, the Pope passes through there. What if he…
Seriously, this causes extreme difficulty in one’s travel plans. I’ve had to skip breakfast knowing that I’d be standing in line for three hours to get to the departure lounge, and then sit there for another hour. Hoping the whole time that there arose no urgent need to use the facilities.
Once I paid 13 CUCs (15 USD) to wait in the VIP Lounge, assuming there would be more luxurious seating arrangements. I found a cleaner, more private bathroom, with toilet paper even, but no toilet seat.
I discussed this conundrum with some of my friends in the United States— most far more worldly than myself. They pointed out that there are many countries in the world where people squat to conquer, so to speak.
Well, I can assure you, a visiting President Barack Obama would never stand for this.
Habaneros, I do not want to appear as another whining US tourist who wants Cuba to change everything to suit my personal, pampered needs. I understand that the cursed Embargo has created many inconveniences and shortages which the Cuban people have been forced to endure for decades.
But how much do a few toilet seats cost?
In the hope of solving this problem, I appeal to Cuba’s MININT, and to President Raúl Castro personally. I will pay for the toilet seats if the government will install them. I’m a frequent visitor, so you can just hit me up for the money when I come through Customs. Surely you’ll recognize me as you’ve stamped my passport and taken my photo six times. And you’ve got my full-body scan on file somewhere.
That said, I understand that a prestigious Parisian firm has been hired to re-design and overhaul the airport. This is welcome news. It would comfort me— and the Pope— to know that their plans include toilet seats.
*Michael Richie is a freelance journalist and published author living in Key West, Florida, USA. “I’m grateful to Havana Times for giving me the opportunity to relate my experiences with the daily life in Havana, the good and the not-so-good, as well as the wonderful nature of the Cuban people.”