Thursday, September 17, 2009

Tips for behavior and understanding of the metro

For the American
1. Although these metro stations are designed to be underground palaces, under no circumstances should you stand at the base of the escalator, by the stairs, in a doorway, etc., where you’ll be in the way of the pressing crowd, and take pictures of the mosaics and details. In fact, don’t take pictures at all – it’s technically still against the law, although I’ve never seen anyone accosted by the police for doing so.

2. The breath you’re feeling on your neck is not cause for alarm. Body space is not an issue here. Well, for certain people it is not. If this tip rings a bell with you, I suppose it is an issue for you. Also, those individuals around you are not trying to push you out of the way because they hate you, nor are they appearing to cut you because they’ve targeted you as a foreigner. Most likely, your pace is either slower than the breakneck run that is Moscow norm, or, in the case of lines, you were not breathing down the neck of the person in front of you, non-verbal communication that you are not rushing, and are trying to be nice to those who are.

3. Likewise, the hand you are feeling in your pocket is not a pickpocket’s. Either you’ve misplaced your own, or you’ve forgotten you’re on a date, or someone is trying to skip the date and get straight to short stop…my point being – you’re not going to feel the pickpocket in the act. Cf. the pickpocketing act in Kooza (the first thing that came to mind wherein one can see a person legitimately getting robbed, not acting. Acting, all sorts of references, from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to Ocean’s Eleven). Any time I mention petty crimes being more prevalent in Europe to my American (and usually male) friends, I find the reaction is usually something along the lines of, “I’d notice the guy doing it and punch him in the face.” No you wouldn’t.

4. While hard to distinguish, even for the initiated, Russian staring is not always negative. If one’s physical appearance is in order, and, even better – if one is reading an interesting book, the stare might very well be of polite interest or intrigue. I…actually, no. I’ll leave Wounded at Broken Elbow to tell that story, if she so desires, ever. I will not.

5. On the topic of books. For a while I was paranoid to read in English on the metro. This was before I found the bestseller booklists at the bookstores Moskva and Dom Knigi. Now I read modern Russian fiction. When I want to mix it up and bring an English book, though, I have this to say: no one cares what one is reading. Probably architectural history texts are not good ideas, for the single reason that I have yet to find one that is not equivalent in size to the hardcover editions of The Bible priests read from, or to Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. That shiz is hard to read without a podium, or one of Wer’s laptop stand things.

6. Nevertheless, don’t scream in English on the metro. Nor should one speak in American-accented Russian too loudly. This isn’t even because of some kind of xenophobia; it’s more closely related to the development of the whisper as the normal speaking voice after puberty. Speak in whichever language you prefer, but quietly.

7. For those hoping to find a mail order Russian bride: never give her a dozen roses. See below.

For the Russian
1. One should sneeze into one’s shoulder, not into one’s hand. Definitely not into both of one’s hands. Cup your mouth with both hands like you are shouting. Now like you are sneezing. See this? This is you treating your germs like they are sound waves and spreading them to every far corner of the room.

2. The same goes for coughing.

3. The same goes, really, for any bodily function. One should not have liquid, secretion, or bodily fluid of any kind on one’s hands.

4. Just as no one cares if one is reading in English, no one cares if you are holding a bouquet of flowers, Mr. Suit-and-Fashion-Mullet Man. You don’t have to hold them upside down. We’ve all counted to make sure that you’re not holding an even number (which signifies mourning of some kind), and more than that, assume that you’re bringing them to your baba. It just is that you, Mr. SaFM-M, have a complex neurosis about what acceptable male behavior should be that you refuse to hold them petal-side up, for fear we would think you are appreciating their beauty.

Seriously. I think Briullov, WoundedatBrokenElbow, and I need to tri-author a collected dictionary of gender-coded behaviors, Man Laws, etc.


Grazhdanin Kostium-i-khvostik-muzhik - Mr. Suit-and-Fashion-Mullet Man

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