Sunday, March 23, 2008

from Adelbert Batica

That was one great article! Hard-hitting, pero magnifico. But yes, there are some of us who need a spine to stand up to foreigners. You know, if you were writing for a newspaper in Mexico, the more "appropriate" vocabulary to use over would have been coj...s. But course.
On my last trip to Cuba, I had an excruciating experience with waiting in line for almost three hours outside the office of the government-owned cellphone company. I had gone there to help my host's daughter get a cellphone (which is a tough one to get in Cuba, since its purchase of cellphones was, and I believe still is, highly regulated). To buy the cellphone, she needed a permit from the Ministry of the Interior that had an officer assigned at the same location for the purpose of issuing permits. As their customer at their "casa particular", I did have a legitimate business with them, and had to sign an endorsement for the cellphone puchase.
But to backtrack a bit, we waited three agonizing hours for that brief moment with the Ministry of Interior officer and the cellphone sales personnel. There was already a long line of people, locals and foreigners alike, waiting to purchase or load a cellphone. As we got to what looked like the end of the line, we asked the question which is SOP at any waiting line all over Cuba: "Quien es el ultimo?" ("Who's last [in line]"). A lady in front of me said, "Usted, senor." A security guard stood nearby keeping a close eye on us. Other than the long wait, it was quite an illuminating experience. Mind you, a three-hour wait is long, and in between, I had to take a restroom break, and eat a snack (courtesy of an enterprising vendor who had his wares ready a few feet from us). I think I must have lit a few cigarros in between, also. And get this: during that three-hour "episode" I never lost my place in the line. All the customers in line make sure nobody broke the line or cut in. helped that a security guard was close by.
I even traveled all the way to visit Santiago de Cuba (a 12-hour bus ride from Havana) and the Church of our Lady of Cobre, and as usual - there were lines at the bus stations, museums, and other attractions. Never did I experience anybody cutting in, whether foreigner or local. And yes, asking "Quien es el ultimo?" didn't make me uncomfortable.

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