Standing in line is also a social occasion, a chance to gossip with girlfriends or flirt with the local Don Juan. Take the line outside Coppelia, Cuba’s state-run, heavily subsidized ice cream parlor (Castro follows the ‘Let them eat ice cream’ philosophy). Those brandishing Convertible pesos are shunted to a forlorn and empty tourist stand, while Cubans with their moneda nacional wait two hours or more for a seat at the formica ice cream bar and a plastic plate dolloped with a small mountain of fast-melting vanilla and a drizzle of chocolate lava spouting from the top.
A guardone of many preventing the parlor from a Bastille-style storminglooked surprised when I asked why people waited that long. "You tourists are so impatient,” he said, with a condescending smile. “You want everything right away. We’re used to standing in line.” He paused. “Anyway, we have nothing else to do.”
Can the Cuban peso and the queuing culture survive a prospective commercial revolution following the fall of the US embargo? I doubt it. And to be honest, if having two currencies means two economies, two sets of restaurants, bars and shops, two classes of people, the haves and the have-nots...and if it means standing in line rather than working or learning or loving...then I sincerely hope it doesn’t.