A couple of years ago bugbog went to shoot Cuba, though not with the same calibre as the CIA. After a busy but enjoyable time in Havana the photographer rented an airconditioned Toyota for a run around the island. Rental staff advised him not to give any lifts.
Cuba, however has two major problems for foreigners in cars. One is that outside towns road signs are almost non existent, as are maps (ask the CIA why that is! ), so asking directions is unavoidable (and if you don’t speak Spanish you are well stuffed).
Secondly, due to the disastrous public transport situation – again, outside towns – large groups of tired, overheated but amiable Cubans wait at most major junctions for a lift from passing government vehicles, such as gravel trucks. In fact the situation has been institutionalised to the extent that there is often a blue coated official who controls the queues, ensures trucks stop and packs the sardines in tight. All of this in searing heat.
So. . . . you stop to ask directions, some sad face tells you how to get there and then plaintively mentions they are travelling there too. You’ve got three spare air conditioned seats, you’re going the same way, you’re a positive person, the folk outside are clearly knackered but kindly, what do you do?
Well, the shootist resisted the first time, but after a few stops like that, moral obligation took over and he start carrying.
After a few days as unpaid taxi driver, he was carrying full loads considerable distances and one time various passengers got out, leaving one lean, talkative man. Suddenly, on a deserted stretch of road between orange groves he said stop here, this’ll be fine. Bigbug stopped and found himself with a broken bottle hovering in front of his face and a demand for money in his ear.
After initially considering options – such as grabbing the bottler’s quivering, adrenalin-pumped and muscular arm – the shootist decided not to fight. In retrospect, the right move and a common rule for travel safety – do not resist.
The two men then entered a lengthy period of negotiation, ending with an agreement to donate $10 to the bottler’s Save the Cuban fund, and not informing the police. The bottler then gave the Shootist the bottle, the Shootist gave him the smallest denomination he could find without pulling his wallet out of his back pocket, $20. For a moment the Shootist considered threatening the Bottler with the bottle, but common sense said get the f*** out of there and live to tell the tale.
p. s. Cuba’s a great country in spite of the hassles. Don’t hesitate, vaya te!