A few weeks ago, after church Sam and I decided to go to Mega to grab some lunch and do a little shopping. Mega is a nice mall with a food court, a huge grocery store - Ashan, and IKEA. Getting there requires a trip on the Metro to the 5th stop, then taking a free bus from there to Mega. Sounds easy. But it's a much bigger adventure than one might think - especially this time of year - as we discovered. When we arrived at Prospekt Brosvechenya - the stop where the free bus picks up - there was already a MASSIVE crowd waiting for the bus. When i say massive, i mean several hundred people. Now, when it comes to queing in Russia, there are some rules. However...there are different rules for different sorts of queues. For example, let's say you arrive at a bank lobby and want to see a cashier. All cashiers are busy with one person standing there at their desk. There are a number of other people in the lobby, some sitting some standing randomly about the lobby, but you see no one in queue. One might assume that these other people have already been helped or are waiting for someone else who is currently being served and you should so stand behind the person being served. But, if you did this, you would be be comitting a big social faux-pas and you would most likely get reamed out. What you are supposed to do in this sitation is this: When you arrive in the lobby, you are supposed to ask, "Who is last?" The person who is last will identify themselves and then you can sit or stand wherever you want while you just keep an eye on who is being helped. When the person ahead of you gets helped you know you are next. Now, this is the rule for banks. But buying Metro coins is a different story. At the Metro cashier there are strict queues and you have to stand very close to the person in ahead of you so no one else steps in front of you. Now...Getting INTO the Metro or a bus is another story altogether. At this point, it is every man for himself. Which brings us back to the massive crowd at Prospekt Brosvechenya. The crowd had gathered by the sign for the free bus, stretching about the length of three busses and as it grew, the width spilled out into the street, blocking one lane of traffic. The logic here is, the closer you are to the door the more likely you will get in, so people basically put themselves in the path of the bus, trying to be first, even if it means having the bus nearly hit them when it pulls up. The traffic was particularly jammed and so it took the bus about 15 minutes before it pulled up, even though we could see it approaching (very slowly) for about half of that time. Once the bus crossed the intersection and aimed itself at the pack of people, the wave began. (This is where people begin anticipating the bus arrival, and begin pushing from the back and it feels pretty much like it feels when you are in the ocean caught in the current.) The first bus arrived and stopped very far to our right, so we knew we would never make it in that one. Half of the crowd swarmed that way the other half repositioned themselves as we did, waiting for the next one we could see coming up. Sam and I jockeyed to position ourselves in the crowd. Being in the front of the pack is never ideal, as you have to worry about being hit by the bus, especially considering the crowd pushes so much and you could get pinned up against the side of the bus. Being in the middle can be good because you'll probably get in, but you end up having no control and just getting pushed around by whatever the back is doing. being in the back is the safest because you have control, but you have to really push people and you may not even get in. We usually end up in the middle. As the bus stopped, the crowd surged toward the three door-openings in the side of the bus. This is where having played sports comes in handy. Ever hear of "boxing out" in basketball? this is pretty much the technique one needs to adopt to get in. You start pushing forward, "boxing out" and as soon as you can stick a body part in the door, you throw you body forward or grab on and pull yourself in. sam and I just made it in the door. he was half on the step and half on the floor of the bus. You might think that at this point the bus was full, seeing as we were already pressed aginst people on all sides, but you might be surprised to know that 4 more people pushed themselves in after us. After about 10-15 minutes of riding like this we finally arrived at Mega, where the doors screetched open and everyone poured out. We had a lovely afternoon - treated ourselves to Subway for lunch, strolled through IKEA, and bought a plant!
Then it was time to do it all over again - the bus ride. If you can imagine it, it was even worse on the way back. Sam and I had to split up - i aimed to get in one door and he aimed for another. we both managed to get insde, but just barely. the only reason i made it inside, is because i got my leg in the door, my foot on the step, and grabbed the doorframe to pull myself in. Luckily for me, the door is a sliding one, not an unfolding one like some busses, therefore didn't crowd me out when it shut. so, i ended up wedged between a handle, the door and a 4 ft. Christmas tree. This picture does not do justice to the actual situation. Just on the other side of the handle is a raised area over some mechanical bus stuff i presume(where this little girl is sitting) so it looks spacious, but isn't. and the little girl is blocking the veiw of all the people jam-packed in. but I didn't have room to move and so couldn't get a much better veiw. the arrows depict the door to the left, the handle in front, and the tree to the right. so this is what the ride looked like for me:
Then some genious behind me decided that this would be a good time to rearrange her bags. (there is literally barely enough room to stand, i have people pressing on me from behind, a handlebar pressing into my front and the door, the tree, pressing on either side, and here she is half bent over rearranging things, pushing people tighter and tighter together! argh!) the ride back was even longer due to bad traffic. the one positive of being next to the door was that it was slightly cooler there. (Remember: everyone is layered with coats, hats and scarves with no room to take them off because of the sardine-tin effect) because of being smack against the cold glass, i have a little relief. the downside to being wedged against the door became apparent upon our arrival when the door had to slide open...into the space i was occupying. my foot received the brunt of the force before i could push myself back against the people behind me enough to get out of the way and shove my way outside. SIGH. Relief. Thus, our Christmas Excursion, Adventure and the Like.