Thursday, May 1, 2014
Fortunately this was not a typical Russian Day
Maybe it was the weather here in Moscow that caused the crazy to come out in everyone today. There seemed to be a front of some sort coming through. Overcast and a bit windy it brought a chill to the atmosphere that was not welcomed or friendly. For me it brought out the laughter. I had four distinct encounters within four hours that gave me a glimpse of the stereotypes I often hear about but rarely encounter here in Russia.
Elena and I were walking to take the metro to soccer practice. The busy street we had to cross always has a long red light with no pedestrian signal counting down the seconds. Typically I shift from foot to foot wondering if the light will every change and I will get to cross. Today an old, fat, wrinkled babushka with a cane stood a few people over. Wisps of stringy, grey hair whipped wildly in the wind free from the traditional scarf she had tied around her head. She quickly became agitated and impatient. Waving her can wildly at the light she began to yell. Next to me a woman with a horrified look on her face was trying desperately to ignore the situation. The babushka made several attempts to step out into the heavy traffic each time ending with another tirade. "I do not understand, I do not understand" was all I could pick out from the little bit of Russian I know. At one point I actually leaned over and put my hand in front of the babushka stopping her from stepping forward. This only quieted her down for a moment before she began her rant again. And then I saw it. In slow motion the babushka leaned back, her face full of vengeance for the traffic that has taken over this city, made a horrid guttural sound then thrust her face forward. A wad of spit and phlegm flew from her lips. The wad spun through the air, little spitletts separating from the whole as it rotated around before landing on the side of a bus. I couldn't contain myself any longer. As I doubled over in laughter the light turned and the little old babushka was lost in the sea of people.
Soccer practice was almost over when yelling caused me to turn and see what the ruckus was all about. Clearly drunk, a man, yelling to no one in particular between swigs from his bottle, sat at the end of the stands. In one fluid motion that he had obviously practiced profusely to the point of perfection, he tipped the bottle back, took one last drink and tossed the it high above his head and over the fence behind him. Stumbling off the bleachers he sauntered onto the field. Fortunately this man was a happy drunk as he walked around passing out hugs to any willing player.
Back on the metro it was crowded with evening passengers. Fortunate enough to find a seat I sat shoulder to shoulder with my fellow travelers. To my right sat a tall, slender man with salt and pepper hair. Like Ichabod Crane his nose was unusually long and bony. He turned and looked at me. No, it was more than a look it was a stare. There was no room for him to lean back for this long stare so every bump or rattle of the train swerved me dangerously close to having my cheek pierced with his weapon of a nose. I began to notice that every time I turned to look at him he quickly turned his head forward and looked at me in the window facing us. Just as I would look forward again our eyes would lock I the glass before he turned his head to a ninety degree angle to stare once again. This situation lasted for a full twenty minutes as I sat there staring forward frozen in my seat with no place to escape due to the crowded train. I about collapsed in relief when we got to our stop and I could flee the car.
Personal cars cannot be parked on the compound where we live. Because of construction we have to park them at a hotel which is a royal pain in the butt. I had left my car on the compound after picking up Maddie at 2:00 in the morning from a school trip. My plan was to move the car in the evening when traffic lightened up and I had a bit more time. Of course I was busted with my illegal parking before I could sneak the car away. So after the soccer practice and cramming my dinner in I got in my car to leave the compound. I drove through the security gates and waited in the driveway to turn onto the street. Traffic had not let up for the day so I sat and waited, and waited. There are Russian "security" guards who stand just outside the wall that keeps us in, hidden from the world outside. We have no obligation to them. Their sole purpose seems to be to watch us go in and out and harass us a bit from time to time. So as I sat there waiting two guards walked up and stood on each side of the car looking at me. I don't know what it was today, maybe I was looking particularly dashing but I was getting rather tired of being stared at. The guard to my left stood at ease about two feet back. He looked at me then looked at the car then back to me. However, the guard to my right stepped so close that I swear his nose was smashed on the window. As he stood there peering my mind began to run away from me.
"Are the doors locked?"
"Crap, no. I need to figure out how to have them automatically lock when I shift into drive."
"Should l lock the doors?"
"No, I can't move a muscle right now. Just look forward."
"I bet I could reach my phone and take a picture of him. Better yet I could move really fast, lean back and do a selfie with him peering in. That would be hilarious, but bad idea. Just stare forward."
"I could roll the window down and have a conversation in the ten Russian words I know but I'm sure that will leave a streak of snot on the glass."
"Thank goodness the traffic just cleared and I can get away! Thirty more minutes of Russia to survive today before I am tucked away in my home for the night!"