well, for starters i shall impart to you the adventure that ensued on our most recent trip to MEGA - a big mall on the outskirts of the city. some of you may remember last year's tale of the free bus which involved me being pinned against the door and a 4ft. Christmas tree. for those of you who don't, you can reference it in the archives or click this link from Saturday, December 29, 2007 "Christmas excursion, adventure and the like" This year was, if you can imagine, even worse when it comes to the free bus. it involved standing in the frigid weather for over an hour, attempting to board the bus twice unsuccessfully, and fearing for my life the third time when we did actually manage to make it inside. but, i'm getting ahead of myself. this year the trip to MEGA was actually not unpleasant. Sam and i made our way quite easily into the bus and even had some wiggle room once inside. when we arrived within view of MEGA we started to have the inkling that this sight was akin to what it would be like to arrive at a mall in the States on black Friday. it was packed with shoppers, cars overflowed from the parking lots, and jammed the roads going to and from the mall. it took about 10 extra minutes to make it around the turn into the parking area and to the place designated for the bus to drop off. but once we arrived inside we were in good spirits and excited about not only the %50 off sales, but armed with the knowledge that the US dollar is gaining on the Rouble and has climbed from 25/$1 to 30/$1, which means the 1000 Roubles which used to be $40, now costs only $33...sale or no sale. which is nice when you have recently gotten some US dollars in your account for Christmas! we had a few items on our mental list - "Russian Cutie" boots for me, a coat rack, and "under the bed" storage box, and a coffee table. we started our search for the boots and after some looking and debating i settled on some "not so Russian Cutie" boots. i tried. i really, really tried...but after trying some on, even the medium sized heels seemed like something i'd probably be regretting with every step in the future. besides the ones i got were the warmest, the most comfy, and they were Sam's suggestion. so, they are my compromise Russian Cutie boots. here is the fruit of my labor:
next we headed to IKEA for lunch. i know that sounds strange. in the USA i was fairly accustomed to being able to buy some kind of cheap lunch (Chinese takeout, pretty much any fast food, soup and salad, etc) for under $5 but for pretty much the only thing you can eat for under $5 here in SPB is McDonalds and Teremok (kiosks that sell Russian Blinis) so, hot dogs that cost 15 Roubles and fountain drinks with free refills for 30 Roubles...(that is completely unheard of...the price AND the free refill thing) and a deal that must be taken advantage of when at MEGA. so both Sam and i had cheap lunch for a total of $4. (it's the little things that are exciting.) maybe not the most healthy of lunches, but for $4...worth it. next, it was on to IKEA's mammoth-sized showroom to find the coffee table, storage box, and coat rack we had scouted out about month or so ago and put on the mental list of "when-we-have-money-let's-get-those".
coat rack. coffee table. storage box. check. check. check.
now comes the drama. we tied our parcels and braced ourselves for the trip back home. never an easy task on public transport (especially the free bus from MEGA), but especially challenging when carrying two semi-large items such as a coffee table in a box and a not-so-heavy-but-very-awkwardly-sized storage box. the crowd outside at the bus pick up area was already large and growing by the second as more people poured out the doors of the mall, wanting to go home. Sam and i squished ourselves into a spot in the middle of the pack and stood our ground. there's a thing about standing your ground. it's good in the sense that you don't let anyone push you out of the way, but bad in the sense that people just walk around and place themselves in front of you, no matter how close you were to the "front" of the group. in fact after a few minutes you will realize that although you were once about 3 rows deep in the pack, you are now somehow 3 rows from the back of the pack even though you haven't moved. you might think that this means you should have moved forward as others put themselves in front, but that would mean you would now be where they are...standing in the middle of the road, in the direct line of the bus. yes, this is what really happens. and when the bus arrives, more people surge forward INTO its path. and then at the last second when all these super-intelligent people realize the bus will either A) be forced to stop and go nowhere and NO ONE will get inside or B) will run them over (and in my experience B is usually more likely) then, all those people who got in front of you start pushing back and falling back and the whole crowd gets shoved back towards the curb. this is where standing your ground becomes most difficult. i'm not sure where all the buses were...normally they come at least every 10 minutes or so, but this night it was more like every 25 minutes or so. i will spare the details of our first two attempts - but let's just say that with two large boxes hampering our movement, our cat-like reflexes were dampened and we were a bit off our game. during the second try we had both gotten very close to the door, but by the time we were close enough, there was maybe enough room for squeezing ourselves in, but definitely not enough for the stuff were carrying. i had been shoved and pressed pretty hard during the second battle and by the end of that second attempt, i honestly wanted to give up. i think i was ready to forget about going home and just sleep on the floor of the mall that night. i had had it. but that really wasn't an option. this was it. Sam cheered me on and tried to make me forget that i was shivering and couldn't get my teeth to stop chattering. then after another 20 or so minutes, we saw another bus. this was it. both of us were not accepting defeat again. the bus pulled up and the crowd in front of us pushed, tripped, and fell backward over each other as the bus came in. and the rest of the crowd surged to the side as the bus moved, each person trying to end up wherever the bus door stopped. i held onto my storage box for dear life and sam, to my right, braced himself as the bus stopped and people started to push and clamor toward the doors as they opened. we had made it to the head of the pack this time through determination and sheer willpower i believe. i was a few heads away from the door and the crowd started to push hard to the left and i was in danger of getting pushed out of the door line and i leaned in hard, and maybe even used my box as a bit of a shield at one point. i was in line with the door and now i was being pushed forward in the right direction. except there were still one girl in front of me who was trying to step up, but as the crowd surged, she dropped, halfway in, but pinned between freedom and the door frame by me and my box because of too many selfish bodies behind us. she screamed and i used as much strength as i could to lean back and tried to use my free arm to help free her. an older lady who was already inside appeared in the doorway and, grabbing the girl's other arm, loudly scolded the crowd and yanked the girl into the bus. when she was free i stepped up with one foot and then got stuck, unable to lift the other leg which was now pressed smack up against the edge of the step. i felt sam brace hard and push back with his box enough for me to get room to free my leg and lift it high enough to step up. i got away from the door and into the isle as quickly as possible and reached my arm back towards the door to help pull Sam in. we were safe. much more scrambling and scuffling occurred outside and more screams. i was out of breath, scared. but alive. the rest of the bus trip was a bit of a blur. with the traffic, it took about 15 minutes just to get out of the parking lot, but even jammed body to body as we were, i was never so glad to be inside a bus in my life.