Friday, 4 November 2011

How's your Russian?

There's tension in the air today.  None of it at my place.  My place is an oasis of calm.  Except when I have to speak to a call centre.  There's also beauty and creativity. And aromatherapy -  I've loaded my diffuser with a "focus" blend and Bach is pumping out of the stereo.  I ventured out.  I had some errands to run and decided to get them done in the morning.

Things were calm enough on the way in.  The usual round up of strange, ordinary people going about their strange, ordinary lives.  The tension started to build when I tried to get off the train at Flinders Street.  There was a large number of people trying to get off and a large number of people trying to get on.  For a few seconds there was a Mexican standoff as the people trying to get on formed a solid wall facing the doors.  Then one of us on the inside made a break for it. She made her way out of the train and then stopped. Standing, thinking about which way to go, oblivious to there being anyone else in the world.

I snaked my way across the crowded platform.  It quickly became clear that I was having one of my invisible days.  People were walking into me, standing in front of me, stopping suddenly in front of me, cutting across my path.  If we were driving cars it would have been a pile up.

This would be a fleeting, purposeful visit to the city.  In and out.  If I was invisible today then no one would even know that I'd been there.

I waited to cross the street at traffic lights and saw a man driving a white van.  He was two cars behind the front of the queue to cross the intersection when the light went red.  From where I was standing I could see that he was in a hurry.  Frustration showed on his face and he hit the horn as the car in front obeyed the red light and stopped.  He sat shaking his head; his jaw tense and his eyes blazing.  I made a note to stay out of his way.

Back onto the train and I found myself in the relative peace of a middle-of-a-week-day train carriage.  About a dozen people sat by themselves in their very own bank of seats, reading, listenening to their ipods or playing with their phones.  The peace was shattered by the arrival of a bustling, fluster of a woman.  She rushed in and sat heavily, arranging her bags and sighing loudly as she did so.  Having arranged her bags she then started fussing and rustling in one of them until she found a tiny scrap of paper.  Satisfied, she then turned to another bag and revealed her mobile phone.  I sighed then.

She rang the number written on the tiny scrap of paper, hunched over and watchful.  Someone answered and she started to whisper-shout, highly agitated and in Russian.  Russian sounds great when it's whisper-shouted by a highly agitated woman in an otherwise quiet enclosed space. It sounds like you would need to do whatever she tells you.  To speak into the phone she moved it away from her ear and held it in front of her face.  She would then move the phone back to her ear.  When this became too much effort to co-ordinate, she put the phone on speaker.  Now we could all hear both sides of the highly agitated, whisper-shouted Russian conversation with a male voice.

I'm not fluent in Russian.  My vocabulary is like that of John Cleese's character in the film "A fish called Wanda" and consists of the following words: "vodka", "nyet", "da", "pravda" and "borscht" so I struggled to follow the conversation.  As I looked at the agitated woman wearing a red cable-knit cardigan over her flesh coloured t-shirt and black knickerbockers I wondered what conflict she was in.  Was she due to make a payment to her drug dealer, but the multi-million dollar cleaning deal had failed to come off and she was begging for more time?  Had her daughter ended up as a white sex slave and she was organising a hit squad to rescue her.

A second voice came on the phone.  A younger woman.  Knickerbocker woman was rubbing her forehead.  Things were not going according to the plan.  The Asian woman sitting directly in front her kept turning to look at her.  As if merely glaring at someone whisper-shouting in a dangerous, high-stakes situation would stop them talking!  The young guy sitting behind her caught my eye and smiled - he and I were both wondering what was going on.

As I left the train, I decided that the situation was more mundane.  She had a big family gathering to cook for on the weekend and she had not been able to source enough beetroots for the borscht.  Or else her idiot son whom she had stupidly allowed to convince her he should be in charge of the shopping had misread the shopping list and bought eggplant instead of beetroot.  What was she going to do with all that eggplant?

I was relieved to step out into the beautiful day. Away from all the other tense people in the world. Perhaps I'd have a shot of vodka at cocktail hour.


  1. Absolutly bloody marvelous thanks I enjoyed the journey

  2. Hey Dean! Thanks for stopping by. Sounds like you might have enjoyed the journey more than I did!