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Cuba: No throwaway society here

If you were an object - a steering wheel for example or a cafeteria tray - where would you want to live? Me, I'd choose Cuba.

I know it's not a rich country. I realize I could never be an expensive object there, let alone a luxury good. Probably I'd end up as just another basic commodity - in a word, cheap.

But what's wrong with that? I mean, do I really need to be a status symbol to feel good about myself? Am I any less of an object because my cousins in Florida cost more than I do? I think not.

There are other values in this world besides retail value. And there's more to being an object than simply costing lots of money.

Like what, you ask?

Well, like being useful, for example. Getting the job done. Making a difference. And, hey, let's not forget quality of life. The economy may be in tatters, but Cuban objects enjoy one of the highest standards of living in the world.

How is this possible?

It's simple, really. Cubans value their objects. No matter how old or new you are - no matter how big or small, dull or shiny, sleek or clunky - there's sure to be someone who wants you. Who needs you. Who maybe can't do without you. As an object in Cuba, you are essential. Nondisposable. Indispensable.

As a result, you're sure to be well looked after. If you have moving parts, they'll be lovingly lubricated. If you're bent out of shape, someone will soon straighten you out. And if, for any reason, you happened to break down, fall apart, or otherwise go to pieces, rest assured: Every effort will be made to rehabilitate you.

But no matter how damaged you are, this much is certain: You'll never meet the tragic fate of so many objects in wealthier lands. You'll never be stuffed in a closet or drawer and simply forgotten. You'll never be cast off as "junk" or tossed out as "trash." You'll never - let's not mince words here - go to waste.

In the end this may be the most appealing thing of all about being an object in Cuba: Though your life has come to an end, you never really die there.

So what does happen to you? Usually one (or more) of the following:

You're recycled. Say you're made of precious metal (and hey, isn't all metal precious?). Odds are you'll be melted down to your essence and returned to the supply chain, destined to become some new and shiny thing.

You're redistributed. Say you're beyond repair, but your parts are still in working order. Most likely, you'll become a donor, your various bits and bobs doled out as replacements to save the lives of others like you.

You're reincarnated. Say that, by a stroke of luck, you catch the eye of a Cuban with some need to fill (or just some time to kill). He or she discerns some special quality in you - some hidden purpose, secret potential, deeper meaning - and brings you back to life as something else.

Before you know it, you've been transformed, reinvented, given a whole new lease on life. Where once you were a cafeteria tray, now you're a TV antenna. Where once you were a beer can, now you're a mousetrap. Where once you were a telephone, now you're a doorbell.

The Cuban genius for creating new things is endless. If you're lucky, you could be reincarnated many times. If you're really lucky, one of the chosen few, you could even become immortal, pictured forever on the pages of this newspaper.

Photos: http://www.philly.com/mld/philly/slideshow.h...

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