HAVANA -- Several dozen government employees arriving home from work milled for hours outside their 20-story apartment building and waited for power to be restored so they could take the elevator up and cook dinner.
Across town in a tiny, dilapidated apartment, 76-year-old Angela Vargas gasped as the image of President Fidel Castro flickered out and back on again on the television screen -- a sign of the continued instability in Cuba's aging electrical system.
Sweltering summer heat in the 90s, blackouts of more than 12 hours, and water shortages have increasingly frayed Cubans' nerves, challenging Castro's government as he prepares for Tuesday's celebration marking the launch of the Cuban revolution.
While occasional blackouts are common every summer, Cubans say these are the most frequent and longest of recent years.
''It's been unbearable," Vargas, a slip of a woman in a purple synthetic shift and plastic sandals, said Thursday night. She nevertheless was relieved that the blackout scheduled late Thursday for her neighborhood never came off.
''Amid the miscellaneous promises and speeches of triumphs that cannot be demonstrated, Cubans are losing patience," dissident Manuel Cuesta Morua said this week. ''Cuba is annoyed."
While Havana residents said the situation eased somewhat this week -- at least in the capital where the celebration is being held -- Cubans worry about the rest of July and August, the year's hottest months. And they hope for good news Tuesday, when Castro is expected to address the nation.
''It would be good if he touched on the theme," Liset Olivera said as she sold mangos and guavas from weathered wooden boxes at a farmers market near Havana Port.