Er, grab the bottle?

    Nick Miroff seems quite taken with the female hitchhikers in Havana. In a report for NPR, he tells of watching "two dozen or so young women trying to coger botella, as it's called in Cuban parlance" on the Malecón one afternoon. The term, he says, "literally means 'grabbing a bottle,' after the universal thumbs-up sign."
    I've seen it translated as "making the bottle," but "grabbing" is new to me.
    "Only no one here uses thumbs anymore," Miroff continues. "Instead, when cars pull up, smiling women lean in to ask drivers for rides. Some practically force their way into cars, even to travel just a few blocks up the street."
    At the risk of appearing cynical, I might suggest that the young ladies on the Malecón, the oceanside boulevard known for its jineteras (and jineteros), may well have been offering the motorists a ride.
    Some, of course, would have been seeking only transportation. As Miroff points out, in a city with good public safety, women can be comfortable getting into cars with strangers. Certainly more comfortable than trying to thread their way into one of Havana's sardine-shuttle public buses.
    Hitchhikers, female and male, young and old, are everywhere in Cuba, and drivers of state-owned vehicles are obliged to pick them up. At many points, rides are organized by a functionary known as El Amarillo ("the yellow guy," for his yellow-beige uniform). In other places, hikers simply make the bottle.


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