For the size of the office, the kitchen is small. During lunch time we line up our Tupperwares by the microwave, so that the person taking out their warm food will know which one to put in next. Hasta para los tupperware hay cola. But it’s not lunchtime, it’s the dreaded hora del burro, the mid-afternoon lull when people look for any excuse to escape the cubicle.
I head to the tiny kitchen hoping to get myself a guayoyito, the world’s finest hora del burro cure. I’d said a silent prayer to the gods of coffee before I left my seat, because there was a good chance that I wouldn’t find any. Used to be we could count on coffee from the office thermos at any time of the day. For the last couple of weeks, they’ve only made two pots in the morning and two pots after lunch. HR sent an email explaining the situation and everything. Clearly, they understand that depriving their people of coffee is a delicate matter.
Three office ladies are chatting when I get there. If we had any such thing as maximum occupancy or firemen regulations, I’m sure we’d be breaching them.
“Buenas tardes,” I say, “any coffee left?”
Mrs. Tarcila, the lovely grandma-like cleaning lady, is happy to oblige.
“Yes, mi niña.”
“How exciting!” I say, pouring myself a mug and silently thanking the gods of coffee.
Rebecca, a fellow coffee enthusiast, is halfway through her conversation with Ana, the other floor’s secretary, and she’s not letting up.
“…well anyway, I asked the pharmacist what all the ruckus was about and he said they’d just gotten contraceptives, so I bought two boxes of Genesa. I had my tubes tied years ago, but I still bought them, to trade them for something else.”
“Yeah,” Ana says, “I also have two boxes of pills I don’t use, to trade with.”
I spot my chance. I’ve been looking for those. “This bartering economy is unbelievable,” I chip in. “Anyway, I’m in the market, next time you buy pills, I’ll trade you something.”
Now Ana’s the one feeling lucky. “I still have them, which ones do you usually take?”
“Whatever I can find,” I say, “My mom’s bachaquero pantry is the real deal, what do you need?”
“Do you have any soap?” Ana says, “Also, it’s two different kinds of pills that I’ve got, is that a problem?”
“No problem at all,” I say, wondering if my gynecologist would second that.
“This is so great!” I say, “I do have soap; I’ll bring it to you tomorrow.”
I could hardly believe my luck at this point. Coffee and contraceptives? Yay!
“Perfect,” Ana says, and adds with an edge of nervousness, “tomorrow please, don’t forget.”
“Ay vale,” Rebecca pipes in, “don’t be like that, if she forgets tomorrow she’ll bring it the next day, it’s not like she’s a stranger.”
“They thing is,” Ana says a bit sheepishly, “I won’t have anything to shower with if she doesn’t bring me that soap.”
My heart breaks a little. Ana hasn’t done anything to anyone to deserve this kind of humiliation.
“Don’t worry,” I reassure her “I’ll bring it tomorrow for sure.”Caracas Chronicles is 100% reader-supported. Support independent Venezuelan journalism by making a donation.