Wednesday, Drunken Russian Lesson day once again. Sergey and I met at the metro and stopped by the grocery store on the way to his house. Grocery stores can take many different forms here, but the most aggravating is when everything is behind the counter and you have to ask for it. I thought this was only aggravating to me with my bad Russian, but observing Sergey I realized that, no, it’s aggravating to others too.

Usually, there are several different counters in these stores, each with its own cash register and employee. So if you need bread and milk, likely you have to pay for each separately. Odd yes, but I’ve kind of gotten used to it.

Sergey got some sausages, and then asked for something at the next counter. “That’s another department,” said the woman, a bit brusquely. So he went to the other counter and the same woman ran over and took his request. It was like something out of a slapstick comedy.

As we left the store he started laughing. “She should have changed her hairstyle between the counters!” “Yeah, and spoken in a different voice!” I said. I was surprised that he found the situation as ridiculous as I did; I had figured it was just one of those things about Russia. I do my best not to be too judgmental, but it’s always fun to have my attempts at politically correct cultural relativism shattered by natives.

I experienced another Grocery Store Absurdity the other day with Kostya. We went into a big supermarket, the kind where you can actually take the products off the shelves yourself. I was carrying a backpack full of books, and usually they don’t let you take a big bag into a supermarket. So I was looking around for the usual storage lockers, and Kostya tugged on my backpack and said “no, over here.” It turns out that you’re allowed to take your bag into this store, but they have to put it in a clear plastic bag and staple it shut. The worst part of it is that it is somebody’s job to do the bagging and stapling.