Friday, February 15, 2008

Bubbles, Wednesday, 5:00 PM

With Kabira’s Internet on the fritz this week and tired of paying Ush 10,000 for two hours of Internet time at Rwenzori or Crocodile, I’ve taken to frequenting Bubbles O’Leary more often of late, where a soda water costs Ush 1,500 and the Internet is otherwise free.

On Wednesday I arrived in the late afternoon, just as the school next door was letting out for the day and the street was packed with cars as parents retrieved their children. Bubbles’ parking lot, meanwhile, was nearly empty. Inside nearly ever seat was taken on the bench along the perimeter of the room. Each person sat with a computer open in front of them on the small table, next to the requisite Coke or bottle of water that allowed them to sit there, undisturbed, for as long as they wanted.

I found N. at the bar and took the seat next to him. CNN aired on the television overhead, something about Steven Spielberg that quickly disappeared and was replaced by a piece on the Iranian president. I asked N. what it was all about. He wasn’t sure but it was CNN International, meaning it was on a loop, and all the pieces would re-air in about five minutes. “How long have you been here?” I asked N. “Since noon.” It was now nearly five o’clock.

A few minutes later L. stopped by on her way out. “I’ve been here for hours,” she said, “and I’ve only now just noticed you.” Shortly after that M. came in the front door and stopped by to say hello. “I’ve been seeing you all over town recently,” N. said to her. “Using the Internet,” he explained to me. M. eyed the spot L. had just vacated.

When I left Bubbles, N. still sat at the bar, M. had secured the only empty seat along the wall, and the parking lot was full. I waved to P., waiting patiently to drive N. someplace, and pulled out onto the street, where the students still seemed to be getting out of school, and the parents still hadn’t figured out how to drive. Traffic jam.

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