Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Besides, it wasn't Spearmint

Dear Readers,

Neither you nor I should be surprised that there is no lack of crazy people
1. in the world
2. in a major metropolitan area like Moscow.
And yet, especially since the majority of the time I’ve spent here in Russia is relatively peaceful and crazy-person-less, it does seem indeed surprising when I encounter a crazy person.

Like in this situation. (You’ll forgive me that I don’t feel like transcribing and translating the Russian.)

I’m riding the metro home at the end of the day. It’s around 11 o’clock at night – late, but not horribly so. I’m reading Tabletka [the pill], a postmodern bestseller. We get to metro station Teatral’naya. (I am on this green line train until Novokuznetskaya, and then I switch to the orange line.

A man sits next to me. “What’s the station?” he asks.

This makes sense neither in English nor in Russian. I guess he means "next" station. “Novokuznetskaya.”

“No,” he replies. “What’s the last station?”


“Ok. Do you want a piece of gum?”

I make a noncommittal noise, shaking my head, and turn a page.

He begins to fish around in his pockets for quite a few minutes. It involves a lot of writhing; he is digging deep into those front pockets. Finally his hands emerge with a half-opened pack of gum. He tears away the upper part and holds it out to me.

“No thanks,” I say.

He motions again.

“No, I’d rather not.”

He grabs my arm (in the Russian “friendly” style, not “scary-forceful”) and I remove it from his grip, again saying: “No, I don’t want any.”

I get up and stand by the door. We’re about thirty seconds away from reaching Novokuznetskaya. I see him out of the corner of my eye: his arms are spread out in a “what?” motion, he’s shaking his head, he’s popping a piece of gum into his own mouth. He can’t understand why the guy who told him which direction the train is going in wouldn’t want a piece of gum.

I look behind my shoulder three separate times when I’m walking to the orange line to make sure he’s not following me.


shchedry, no stranny chelovek - a generous, but strange person


Monica said...

I would have been so scared! In America there is no "friendly" style of grabbing someones arm...it's called assult!

Monica said...

Sorry, I forgot the "a" in assault.

P said...

Posts like this bring me immense amounts of joy.

P.S. i don't know why this signs my name as P

Andrew said...

Monica - No worries, sometimes I go AH! and have to quickly edit multiple posts because of the horrible type faeries that have plagued the keyboard. I don't even have a baby sitting in my lap I can blame! ;)

As for the "good touch-bad touch" - it really is weird. Sometimes I feel violated when I shouldn't, just because of the cultural differences.

Pat - In your gmail account settings you must have put "p" as your first name.

I, by the way, do not have to write any kind of identity-verification code. Mwahaha