Thursday, March 9, 2017
Technology prevails, thanks to Playa Larga

When I woke up in the Matanzas province in Cuba last week, there was too much hurrying going on to worry about wifi cards and cellphone signals. It was the crack of dawn and I had told my group that any trip to the Zapata swamp, a region very closely resembling the Everglades, had to start uber-early.

A lengthy drive through the wooded entrance of the park finally yielded a broad horizon of white birds, interspersed with a few bright, pink spoonbills. Unfortunately, only a few flamingos had stayed behind, while the others had continued on their migratory route. This was all fine and dandy, but at the fore of my mind was the fact that my first attempt to send my “Our Man in Havana” article and photo the night before had failed miserably. An iPad was great for editing images, it even worked well for some writing, but without a decent wifi signal, none of this mattered.

As we turned around to make the slow, bumpy and hot 10-mile drive back to “civilization,” I came up with a new, albeit hair-brained idea. I would transcribe the story from iPad to iPhone, then, take a cellphone photo of the iPad screen. This was a desperately low-tech plan. The hope was that my iPhone could connect to the wifi that every other Cuban in Playa Larga (on the Bay of Pigs) was obviously enjoying near the entrance to town.

Bouncing along the gravel and pot-holed road in the “way back” seat of a 1952 International truck/SUV thing, I continuously fought with auto-correct and device screens timing out. About halfway through my typing, naturally, everything vanished, so I was given a second, unwanted opportunity to type it all in again.

Cuban wifi zones are easy to spot. At least half of the people you see either in a park or in front of a hotel, have headphones dangling from their ears, a cellphone an arm’s length from their face and usually, a really big smile as they “FaceTime” with relatives abroad. There was no question whether we were in the right spot or not, it was just a matter of connection. For about 15 minutes, I tried in vain to connect. It was time to bite the bullet and call The Citizen and tell them that for the very first time, I would have no article on Cuba. This was not good and it really had me down.

Imagine my surprise when I got back to Key West two days later hearing that “they had some photo of a guy with tobacco.” I figured they had dug up an old Cuba photo and had winged a caption. But no, somehow, some way, the roughish draft I had written while flying down Cuba’s Autopista highway from Havana to the Bay of Pigs had snuck out of the iPad and found its way to Northside Drive in Key West. How? Who cares, right? Like I always say, “all’s well that ends ...”

roneal@keysnews.com