Gladys, or the Fantasy of “Renovating the Model“ / Miriam Celaya

Cafetería estatal modelo
State Cafeteria

Since all the talk started about the new process for awarding self-employment licenses, Gladys sharpened her pencil, did her accounts, and finally concluded that the time had come for her savings of many years, jealously guarded for “the bad times,” to be turned into an investment to support her precarious condition as a divorced mother with no work at all. She would open a coffee shop selling light meals and, with luck, in time recover her investment and begin to earn some profits. In her neighborhood, on the periphery of the capital, there were not a lot of establishments of this type, and so she was assured of customers. That and her cooking skills practically guaranteed the success of her little business.

So Gladys went to the offices empowered to that effect in her municipality, where she was directed to the first and indispensable step: she had to contact her polyclinic and ask for an inspection by the Department of Hygiene and Epidemiology. An official wold visit her house and determine if she met the health requirements to get her license approved. After three fruitless visits to the polyclinic, (the “compañero” was “working outside”), on her fourth try the persevering Gladys managed to find the most important official and ask him for the inspection. The man. imperturbable, hieratic, and silent, simply looked at her coldly from the majesty of his desk and pointed with a dirty fingernail to a paper hanging behind the glass of a cabinet, which she had not previously notices. It set out the conditions license candidates have to meet (or “new graduates” as popular humor calls them), the first of which is that the applicant must have two kitchens, one for the family and the other for cooking food for the public. OK, when we say “kitchen” in this case, we’re not taking about a simple stove, an investment that already would be very expensive. No sir. It must be a completely separate kitchen with stove, a tiled counter (preferably white tiles), sink, electricity and running water.

Gladys does not understand why, if she has a large and sparkling kitchen — which, incidentally, would also be subject to inspection — she would have to invest all her capital in building another one, without even having the space for it. “Those are the rules,” said the little man invested with Olympian powers; “What’s more, pay attention, you have to have two refrigerators: one for the house and one for the cafe.” There was silence, dense and brief, until, convinced that she had done everything possible and satisfied for having done her part, Gladys retired, a mysterious smile on her face.

I don’t really know anything more about it, but I have heard it said that from Gladys’s house are sold bread with croquettes and soft drinks that are the best in the neighborhood.

January 7 2011