Our editor-in-chief, Russell Valentino, is writing a series of posts from a trip across Eurasia via ferry, plane, and Trans-Siberian Railway.
I’m buying my ticket, having waited in line for the last twenty minutes. I lean down to talk through the space between the glass and the counter, aware that everyone behind me and to the left and right is listening. Just as I’m getting ready to pay, a guy from the South—I’m guessing the Caucasus but possibly Central Asia, Russian speaking, but with an accent—comes up, apologizes to me, says he’s in a big hurry and needs to pay for a piece of luggage for his train that’s leaving in three minutes. The woman in the window snaps at him, can’t he see that she’s in the middle of something, he yells back that his train is leaving, she yells back that that’s not her fault, he yells back that he just needs to pay for that one thing, she shouts she’s busy and he has to go to another window, he curses and says you’re all busy at all the windows, she curses louder back that that’s not her fault either, he slams a fist on the wood next to me with a final curse, and disappears. She looks at me (by this time she has seen my passport) and says, “We have that kind here sometimes, too.”
At which I have no idea what to say so just take out my credit card to pay, at which she says, oh no, you’re paying with a credit card, and I ask, is it a problem? Well, she’s already prepared the ticket for cash (a different process). The money machine in the adjoining room might work, and I might be able to take out enough cash—I say I’ll try, and she says she’ll hold onto the ticket (and my passport) in case it works. I’ve got the cash now and, thinking I’ve already stood once, I should be able to skip that part, but I also know that Russians are constantly on the lookout for line cutters, so I stand sort of on the side in the front and ask the next guy waiting, if you’re not in too much of a hurry, I just have to pay, she already prepared the ticket, it’ll only take a second. He says, my auntie is waiting for me outside. Of course, I know what