Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The strange case of the P4

Photo: Claudio Fuentes Madan

On the 7:30 AM news, selected people from different ministries are invited to present criteria, explain situations, propose solutions, etc. This morning one of them was talking about transportation. The truth is that I started to watch it incredulously, I went through laughter and anger, I drew my conclusions and ended up turning off the TV.

I have been talking to the TV for a while now; it has become a private hobby. It's my way of establishing a genuine squabble with the status quo: they talk and I answer, it's a lot of fun. The only one I don't talk to is Randy*, because that would be stooping too low.

So the guy was very clear, even speaking in an unofficial capacity. By coincidence, he takes the same bus I take and at the same time. However, incomprehensible paradox, he has no problems getting on, is never late, and the bus is half empty. I decided that perhaps he took it going in the opposite direction to mine, otherwise, I would have to assume that he and I live in parallel worlds: in my world, the P4, if it comes, is packed and sometimes I cannot get on; in his, the Vedado-Beach route is a pleasant tour.

But that was not all, he then did some weird figuring. Apparently, the number of passengers using public transportation has increased by 50% across Cuba thanks to an increase in vehicles (we do not know what percentage represented the previous calculations, nor the date used to mark the difference between the two). Later, he said that in Ciudad-Habana there was an increase of 48%. He did not say how much it had increased for the rest of Cuba, so I wondered what was represented by that 50 on a national level if we remove Havana.

He confessed, dismayed, that, incomprehensibly, and in spite of the increase in buses and conditions, inter-provincial travel had declined. Perhaps the analysts were so overwhelmed with the numbers that they forgot that fares for those buses almost tripled, and traveling from the provinces to Havana is very complicated if you do not make clear exactly why you are going, for how long, and where you will be staying.

He saved the best for his very comprehensive closing, concluding that people arrive late at work because they do not plan well (this is not a joke, I'm quoting him verbatim) and he wisely advised us to take action (I guess that such ineptitude does not correspond with this people).

You have to have a real stone face to say this on open Cuban television. Frankly, I hope he gets a car soon, and that they give him a promotion and another task, even if it's a more obscure one than this, at least that way we would be liberated from his absurd morning reprimands.

* Translator's note: Cuban 'journalist' Randy Alonso, hosts the nightly "Round Table" program.

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