"Good Morning to My Customers"

The bus ticket agency located at 41st and 30th streets in Havana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 19 May 2019 — Maybe because the National Bus Ticket Agency on 41st street at the corner of 30th in Havana’s Playa municipality is next to a theater, you might think that what happens every day at 8 o’clock in the morning is a performance, designed to mock of several things at the same time: the bureaucracy, the authoritarianism and especially the disparagement on anyone calling themselves a customer, but who does not happen to be a user, more or less subsidized.

The truth is that it is a ritual that takes place in the ticket reservation offices of the capital whose purpose is to guide the aspiring passengers to learn about their dwindling rights and their overwhelming obligations.

His arrival on the stage happens with punctuality. Dressed soberly, perfectly shaved and pronouncing all the letters of all the words, the actor, that is the second administrator of the Agency, is placed in  corner protected from the inclement sun which, at 8 o’clock in the morning attacks the facade of the building at an almost horizontal angle. A discreet earring in his left ear gives him an air of tolerant and understanding person.

He utters the same phrase in a low voice every morning. “Good morning to my customers” and he pauses, often rehearsed, because he knows that those who have remained at the edge of the tumult can not hear him and as everyone wants to receive their “clear directions” he manages to divide his audience into two parts, on the one side the undisciplined who do not shut up and the obedient ones who demand silence.

His customers have spent most of the night in a line with the intention of having a place that allows them to get a ticket to another province for the desired date. Some clever people have arrived even earlier and are dedicated to selling their places in the line to the unsuspecting who appeared at the time of opening.

“Good morning to my customers,” he repeats, almost condescending and then informs them that today is Saturday and consequently the Agency concludes its work at eleven-thirty in the morning.

“Our jobs is to sell the tickets for trips between today and August 15, and I speak of the outward trips that are sold 90 days in advance, because as you know, the returns are sold 105 days in advance, that is, from today until August 30.”

Every time he says “from today” he knows that he is stating a formality because in real life those who have spent the early morning waiting at the office have come to buy a ticket for August 15th and returning by the 30th. Because everyone knows that it would be a miracle if there were any tickets left for any of the days before that, much less for today or tomorrow.

An employee of the ticket agency details the intricate details, one by one, to buy a ticket. (14ymedio)

Then he says something that gives hope to those present: “As you know on Saturday we sell the same dates as on Friday, so yesterday we were also offering for the same days as today, and today we will sell what was left from yesterday… if there was anything left “

Undoubtedly, this man is a professional communicator and knows that he must offer certain warnings, for example, he explains to his clients that when they speak of one-way tickets, they refer to those leaving Havana and that those for a Return are those that come from other provinces ending in the capital.

He is respectful when he says “when you go to the ticket office you must have enough money to pay for the ticket.” He adds that they must pay in national currency because the CUC (Cuban convertible peso) is not accepted here and that if they are short a peso they can not buy the desired ticket.

From time to time he is silent and glares at those who have dared to interrupt him, but he does not get upset, he just recommends that they listen to him because when they are in front of the window it will be too late.

He feels it necessary to indicate to those who listen to him that when they talk to the clerk at the ticket office, they should do so through the hole in the glass and that when they tell the date they should say it with numbers, first the day and then the month. To avoid regrettable confusions. It specifies that June is month 6, July is month 7 and August is month 8.

When he thinks he has said almost everything, the person in charge of informing the clients makes it known that the priorities or privileges in the line are duly regulated.

“In the first place the physically disabled, with their corresponding identification (physical handicap card), those who only come to reinstate their passage because they changed their trip, employees and inmates showing their pass.

Aware of the sensibility sparked by a woman with a babe-in-arms or a pregnant one, he clarifies that the Agency does not include these among the priorities and that is “a matter of the line.” Before the innocent and surprised spectators he confesses: “Some pregnant women or women with babies in their arms come here and buy tickets for the whole family, but not for themselves.”

Finally the diligent employee makes it known that only 4 seats are sold in each car and that if someone has paid money to a “colero” to stand in line for them, they should know that this does not guarantee that they will get a ticket.

Before saying goodbye, he gladly offers to answer any question, which he does with kindness and knowledge.


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