Coming back to this fascinating country, there are many observations to be made.
The fashion here is a lot different from the pretentions or sporty attire I usually see in Dallas. I guess you could call it “revealing.” There’s the high fashion version involving skirts that are barely long enough to be called skirts. My language teacher used to crack up when she told the joke, “Is that a skirt or a belt?” It’s not much of an exaggeration.
On other end of the spectrum are the folks who are dressed pragmatically. Despite the stereotypes, Russia can be hot in the summer. Not many places are air conditioned. So, in order to avoid melting like the Wicked Witch of the South, gossamer blouses are the best choice. Selected not to seduce a young man, these “mature” women are just thinking of survival. Can you imagine a hot flash with no A/C? Maybe you or someone you know would make the same choice. I am thinking I would!
As I exited the metro at Leningradsky Train Station, I was struck by the familiar contrast among the people on the street. There were huddles of “gypsies”, taxi “sharks” looking for tourists who were ignorant of a reasonable rate, and there were groups of individuals passed out on the sidewalks. Some of them dressed shabbily, revealing their homelessness, but others dressed nicely. I guess they found some friendly company willing to provide drinking companionship if they were willing to provide the drink. Once passed out, the companions disappeared.
Before I continue to describe the scenery, what do you think my perspective of all of this is? Does Russia have a higher rate of “Gross Domestic Depravity” than America? Read this to find out my thoughts on that.
Sizing up the ideal “waiting room,” I decided on Subway, as you may already know. No wait staff to worry about occupying tables at their expense, cheapish food, and it wasn’t crowded. Only one of the six tables was occupied. I placed my suitcase next to the booth behind the door to make walking off with it a little more laborious and I went to order. I couldn’t find anyone working there! I stood there waiting for a worker to emerge from the kitchen. No one came. This is a perfect excuse to sit down a while before ordering. Honestly, I wasn’t hungry at all. Back towards the counter, I discovered the digital clock that would become my focal point for the day.
Once they emerged, the two employees were identified as Kyrgyz (from Kyrgystan – a Central Asian country). Young and friendly I started noticing that they provided a rest-stop for many – a woman selling ice cream on the street who needed a bathroom break, a Yakutka (a girl from the Republic of Yakutsk which is also Asian, but different from Kygystan foremost because it is not independent from Russia) who was also awaiting a train and needed a cool place to eat her Ramen noodles, and more.
One of the others was a young man who appeared to be relatively well off and relatively high on some narcotic. He made his first appearance early on in my stay. He blew in, sweat dripping from his body, insisting on a shower. A shower at Subway? They didn’t even have a public toilet! He disappeared behind the door marked “Employees Only” and emerged dripping wet. Much like a dog, he was unable to dry off with a towel, so he was soaking the floors. He demanded a rag. What he got in return for his demand from the Kyrgyz young men was a smile, but no rag. The young man didn’t seem to notice that his order had been ignored. He continued his list of demands – now a mop! He never got either. He continued in a frenzied manner and eventually left. Maybe he was the owner’s son? He ordered the young men around like he had some authority. In retrospect, seeing as his demands were never met, I now think he was just a deluded by the drugs.
This young man returned several more times. Each time he brought with him a different peer – another well-dressed young man, though none of seemed high. Sometimes they would watch television. Sometimes they would talk at, rather than to, the workers. Sometimes his friend would watch television while he slept. Never, not once did he or his friends purchase anything. Once he was kind enough to whisper something unintelligible my way and then blow me some kisses as he raced out the door. That was the only time he acknowledged my existence. Weird.
I bought a sandwich and 2 beverages over the course of the 6 hours I was there. Eventually I, too, went behind the “Employees Only” , permeable barrier to use the bathroom – invited there by my hospitable hosts. I discovered a small bathroom drenched, I assume, by the young man taking his “shower” in the sink.
I had planned on investing more money in the other 2 establishments nearby, dividing my wait time among them. The longer I waited and the more I observed, the more I realized that this Kyrgyz-run, American-born, fast-food establishment was God’s provision for my wait. It was an oasis for many and welcome to all.
Just another typical day of adventure for my life in Russia.