Well, the most exciting events of the past few days have involved visits to my favorite medical clinic ever, EuroMed. I’ll spare you the details, but I can’t keep from chuckling about the fact that the word “festered” was used in the official diagnosis. (Family, don’t worry, it’s really nothing serious.) Here’s an unrelated story.


On Friday after work, I was getting on the Metro at the Primorskaya station. Since the station’s at the end of the line, you can always get a precious seat if you hurry on to the train when it comes, or if you’re willing to wait for the next one. So the train came, and I hurried on, and aimed for a spot that a middle-aged man was also aiming for. Noticing another place across the aisle, I headed for it and let the man take the first seat. But a very sweet-looking older lady had squashed over to make room for me between herself and Middle-Aged Man.

A St. Petersburg Metro bench has room for exactly six average-sized adults in bulky winter coats; seven is crushing even by Russian standards. So now there were six people sitting on the bench and room for about half a person between Middle-Aged Man and Nice Older Lady. I nodded at the lady to thank her anyway, and settled down to my full-sized spot on the other side. Just before the doors closed, a drunk guy in his mid thirties stumbled onto the train, forced his way into in the half-spot, and very, very vigorously elbowed Middle-Aged Man and Nice Older Lady, trying to defy the laws of physics and make the space bigger for himself. I raised my eyebrows and then looked away for a second, and when I looked back, a tall, fashionably-dressed man in his mid-thirties was leaning over from his standing position, and, in American parlance, smacking the drunk guy upside the head.

While I’m basically a pacifist and generally believe that violence does little to solve problems, I have to say that I thought this was just great. Fashion Man wasn’t hurting Drunk Guy, just trying to say, “Hey, you’re being a complete dick.” I wish this happened more often, people taking it upon themselves to stick up for strangers. Like, maybe there should be a trained force of ordinary citizens authorized to smack people upside the head for doing jerky things.

Of course, when you smack someone, there’s always the possibility that they’ll retaliate and it could turn into something ugly. So I watched this with some concern. Apparently Nice Older Lady felt this way as well and she sort of waved her hand at Fashion Man to stop. And Drunk Guy, really too incapacitated to fight back in any case, looked up at the guy in confusion and waved him off too, in a very pathetic, uncoordinated way.

I had been planning to get off in two stops, to transfer to another line and go to a cafe to kill some time before meeting up with Kostia after he finished work. But I decided to kill the time seeing what would happen with Drunk Guy instead. Nothing quite as exciting, unfortunately. Drunk Guy nodded off. Nice Older Lady and Fashion Man got off two stops later. A big round guy carrying a big bag sat down in Nice Older Lady’s place, but because there had been seven on the seat and Drunk Guy hadn’t moved over to make the spacing right for six, it was a tight fit for Round Guy. Drunk Guy elbowed him as well, but Round Guy just ignored it and when the person on the other side of him got up, he slid to the end of the bench. Then a tall middle-aged lady got on, and seeing Drunk Guy and the half-seat on either side of him, tapped him and gestured to him to slide over. He shook his head and Tall Lady sighed and sat down anyway, but he finally did slide over and pass out again.

We rode the train all the way to the other end of the line. When we got there, I got off with everyone else, but hung around to see if Drunk Guy would wake up or if he’d have to be booted off the train by a conductor. He managed to wake up on his own, and proceeded to stumble around the platform asking people for cigarettes. Most people just waved him off, though I saw one young woman in a white fur jacket run away from him. After I crossed to the other platform for my return trip, I could see our hero staring uncomprehendingly into a kiosk window.