Sweeping

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In a derelict taxi whose seats were so low on the road that I could feel every pebble we sped over, we travelled towards the south. We talked about food and health, the black market and the Cuban lifestyle. Knowing Spanish was a real asset, since many Cubans spoke only a little broken English. We shared a taxi with a Serbian and an Iranian, both Swedish residents and travelling together. Talkative and curious, they knew no Spanish and required constant translation with the taxi driver.

What happened was that we stopped at a bar along the road, parked behind the flimsy bathroom cubicle and were asked to get out and stretch our legs. While we were doing that, two employees came up with a huge container full of petrol and, with the help of a funnel, proceeded to fill our taxi’s tank.

We stared.

When we got back into the car, the taxi driver candidly admitted that yes, that petrol was tax-free and yes, it was technically stolen from the government. What he explained was that the trucks that transported petrol all over the country regularly overestimated how much gas they’d need to travel and sold what was left at a lower price to the black market. We had just witnessed the final stages of that process.

After translating everything to the two Swedes, the Iranian said

But doesn’t all this stealing go against the common conception of communism, which is what the whole country believes?

The taxi driver’s answer was simple.

No. 

It was a while before conversation was restored.

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