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  • Every time you get on the bus or subway in Moscow it’s a battle to the death. The second the chosen mode of transportation arrives, there is a mad rush for the doors, with elbows a-flyin’ and knees in your thigh and cursing in your ears. The worse are the babushkas, the old ladies who literally kick you or shove you out of their way. One has to plant their feet with elbows out and join in the fight just to get on. If you hesitate or are the least bit polite you are left standing on the outside as the train or bus pulls away. Ride or be ridden.

    Simply getting on the selected transportation of choice doesn’t end the war, just the first battle, as then the jostling and pushing for a seat begins. And if you don’t get a seat, you are shoved ingloriously into some fat, smelly, greasy fuck to the point where you can feels his vodka cabbage soup breath on your neck. Personal space? Ha! You pampered westerner, there is no such thing! And then the bus/train pulls away with a jolt and every person on the train is jerked aside, the weight of a hundred people falling on your left pinky toe. You might yelp in pain, but nobody even blinks let alone gets off your foot. In fact, they most likely will push down harder on your flattened clump of flesh.

    And then you come to a stop, and some sorry soul in the middle of the sardined mass tries to inch their way to the door. A grocery bag in the face, another elbow in the gut, another knee to the groin, as the sap pushes all their weight rudely and selfishly towards the exit. And for everyone getting off three get on, and the sturm und drang of it all continues.

    If, by some twist of fate, some act of God, you actually get a seat, within a second some babushka will get in your face, and a torrent of Russian vulgarities will issue forth, all pretty much meaning ‘get the hell out of my seat!’ When still a rookie you get up and politely offer your seat, but after initiation you learn how to refuse, how to feign ignorance, because this isn’t some nice old lady, but the same babushka who kicked you in the shin not ten minutes before, and damn if she’s gonna get your seat. Survival of the fittest, you old bitch! So the second you get your seat, nestled rather cozily between whoever or whatever is smashed against your shoulders, you close your eyes and feign sleep. If you’re sleeping, there’s nothing they can do except wake your ass up, which they do on occasion. And if it comes to this, usually the old bat will have enlisted the support of the people nearby, and by sheer force of collective will you begrudgingly rise, vowing to get even next time, to elbow the next old lady, to trample the next six-year old girl, to stare down the next teenage punk.
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