Thursday, November 5, 2009

Varekai, Part III

This only relates to Varekai in that I’m writing it at the same time as the other two posts, and it happened on the metro ride back.

Two guys passed me on the escalator. In the hands of one was a printed out copy of the map. I have developed a sort of “I-feel-your-pain-but-I’m-not-quite-like-you” binary sense of empathy/superiority to tourists, and I experienced that sense as they passed.

Then I forgot about them, composing as I was in my head the posts that have preceded this one. Got off the ‘tro at Leninsky Prospekt as usual.

I’d just passed the Stardogs™ stand (a Russian hot dog company whose product I’ve not yet tried, but do wish to. Someday. When I have many pills nearby to drown my surely-soon-to-be-deathly-aching-stomach) when whom did I see but – two tourist guys! Izvinite, they said, Vy ne skazhite, pozhalujsta, kak proidti do ulitsy Ordzhonikidze? [Excuse us, could you say how to get to Ordzhonikidze street? Note on pronunciation: or-john-ih-KEE-dze. The “-ih-“ like in “in” or “is;” the “dze” like you’re Giada pretending you have an Italian accent]

I explained. They riposted: Dom nomer odin – na pravoi ili levoi storone? [Is #1 going to be on the left or right and side?]

The left was the answer I gave; my building is also odd-numbered, and it is on the left. So.

There was a surrealism in that moment. How did I know they were foreigners? Well, besides remembering the map they had before…I can hear accents, even though I can’t distinguish place of origin. And when they said “left or right” they gesticulated broadly to either side of the street, at a moment when I hadn’t said enough to give myself away as a foreigner (meaning they were nervous about their own accents). Plus they didn’t know how to get to Ordzhonikidze and they were wandering around that area at night. Not something a Muscovite would do.

The surrealism – there was a moment of hesitation, as they were doing that gesticulation, where I thought: “Why don’t I just answer them in English?”

These first thoughts I have, man. Why are they always so stupid? I can shoot them down so readily. I need to work on that. A whole host of reasons why I shouldn’t and didn’t: I didn’t know they were English-speakers, just that they were foreign tourists; I hate it when I ask someone a question in Russian and they respond in English; I don’t actually feel like continuing this list, etc.

But I wonder what it might have been like if a Russian had passed us. That one would likely have been able to differentiate our accents. ”What the deuce are an American and two Brits doing, speaking to each other in Russian on a street corner at 11 o’clock at night? And gesticulating like windmills, how rude.”

My Russian-construct is a little bit prudish, apparently.

1 comment:

Stacey said...

And a bit British himself - "what the deuce"? ;)