Neither you nor I should be surprised that there is no lack of crazy people
1. in the worldAnd 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.
2. in a major metropolitan area like Moscow.
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