In Havana, the collective taxis near the capitol line up on the street that juts out from the Hotel Inglaterra, around the corner from its big patio café with its striped awning and wicker chairs, across from the Parque Central, down a small alley that leads off into the confusion of Centro Habana. There’s sometimes a man there expediting, and he looks at you impatiently, asking, “¿Pa’onde va?”
And you tell him Linea or Dieciocho and he points you to the right car. Or if the man’s not there, you walk from car to car, asking “¿Linea?” until a driver nods and points to his seat. There are always more cars for Dieciocho. That’s how it was on this particular night, and it seemed like I had to ask twelve drivers before I found one heading in the direction of Calzada and F, where I had my room. But a driver did finally nod, and since I was the first passenger, I slid onto the upholstered front bench and asked to be let off at Linea and G.
The thing about a colectivo is that the driver makes money by keeping it full. So if you’re the first customer, you wait until three or four more people pop their heads into the cab and ask “¿Linea?” Tonight it was taking time. Eventually, the driver got out to light a cigarette, leaving me alone in his car. This was normal.