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The Crush

January 28, 2011

Language refresher is done, and I am now in the city of Konotop for the weekend. Getting here was an interesting experience – it involved an electrichka, something I had not taken before, as they do not run to Kirovograd.

What exactly is an electrichka? It is a “commuter train” in the sense that it is much cheaper, does not have beds, and is meant to be used for shorter distances than regular trains. To ride the electrichka, you go the station and either wait in line and buy the ticket, or just go to the platform and plan to buy the ticket on the train.

About 20 minutes before the train was scheduled to arrive, the train was announced, and we went to the platform. Because the doors were still locked, there were large crowds of people by each of the doors, waiting for them to open, at which time it became a large crush of people competing to get on the train.

You see, they oversell the train, and people are always left standing. This is something they do not do on regular trains, but on the electrichka, they do.

So we were looking, and I commented that there was no way all of these people waiting at these doors were going to get a seat on the train. I was then encouraged by my two co-travelers to be like the rest of the Ukrainians and push my way in. Which I did as soon as the doors opened.

It was very interesting, jumping into the fray with a bag on my back and one in my hands, pushing with all the babushkas and other people, competing to get in and get a seat (or, in my case, three). I managed to do a pretty good job, got on (most of the seats were already claimed!) and claimed three.

I had to fight for those two saved seats! Before my co-travelers were able to get on, two of the babushkas that I managed to out-jostle got on and yelled at me. I told them the seats were taken (“busy”) but they ignored me and we three ended up with seating for two (which we made work, as it was bench seating). These ladies were WARM – they YELLED at me. Of course I did not understand most of what they said, but tone of voice comes through loud and clear.

So we sat there, waiting, for nearly another half-hour before the train left, then rode with them for another 45 minutes until one of them got off. We three were pretty cozy, sitting in places for two, but we made the best of it. I knew they were mad at me, but honestly, I think they were mad at me because I did the same thing that they do – that is, not stand in line but just push your way in – better than they did. And they STILL got to sit down, one of them in a seat that I had saved anyway!

Don’t mess with the babushkas!

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. Mom permalink
    January 28, 2011 3:25 pm

    They were just mad because you got there before they did. And they tried to intimidate you. There’s where you language barrier was to your advantage. You didn’t have to argue back.
    It happens everywhere. Remember big sale days in America? People still trample over one another to get in first.
    Glad it all worked out, though.

  2. Lisa permalink
    January 28, 2011 3:27 pm

    You’re telling me that you’d let an old lady stand the whole way while you have a seat? Better to take the seat from some able-bodied man or woman. It sounds like dog eat dog – – survival of the fittest. Go girl!

    • Lisa permalink
      January 28, 2011 3:31 pm

      BTW, your posts are great! I really get the flavor of life there. I wish I could experience it, but this is the next best thing.

  3. January 29, 2011 2:47 am

    Lisa – Hah! The old ladies NEVER stand! If someone got to a seat and they want it, they just take it!

  4. Renate Strina permalink
    January 31, 2011 5:59 am

    The entertaining value in these posts is priceless! Thank you for sharing, Karin! Thank you for the vivid descriptions! ***SMILE*** 45 minutes + waiting before the train leaves makes for a long time standing, so I can understand the ‘hunt’ for a seat! Congratulations! Sending greetings, Renate

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