18 June 2008

The Great Train Robbery, or How Not to Plan a Trip

That last post reminds me why I was taking a taxi to the train station in Rostov in the first place. (This was on my way to Pskov, in case that wasn't clear.) Basically, it's a story that involves me being stupid several times over, which is perfect blog fodder, no? I'll tell this story in three parts, because it's long.

Part One: Some Bad Decisions On My Part

First, I wait too long to buy my tickets and have to choose a train to Moscow that I don't usually take. This train leaves not from Rostov's main station, but from a station called Pervomaiskaya ("First of May").

I find out where Pervomaiskaya is from people at my place of work, which is pretty much the only smart thing I manage to do. It's a stop on the electric train route from Taganrog to Rostov, so all I have to do is take the electric train to Rostov and get off when they say "Pervomaiskaya". Simple.

So, my departure date rolls around. My Pervomaisk-Moscow train leaves at 1:07 p.m. By the time I get up, shower, and eat breakfast, I've long since missed the 8 a.m. electric train (electrichka) to Rostov; this leaves me the 10 a.m. express or the 11 a.m. non-express, which reaches the main Rostov station at 12:45. Clearly, I should take the express, but I don't move fast enough, and anyway, I realize that if it's an express, it might not even stop at Pervomaiskaya. And if the non-express gets all the way to Rostov by 12:45, it should get to Pervomaiskaya before that. I'll be fine.

I get to the Taganrog train station at 10:30 a.m., after stupidly taking a tram (slow) instead of a bus (fast) to get there. I delude myself into thinking that I have enough time to stand in line and get a paper ticket for Pervomaisk-Moscow (I bought my tickets online, but you absolutely must have a paper ticket to board the train) before catching the electrichka. There are four people in line front of me. Four people, thirty minutes. Ok. I stand calmly. After about three minutes I start tapping my foot. I start glancing at the clock twice a minute. I whisper mild Russian curses under my breath as the woman at the window fishes two birth certificates out of her purse to buy children's tickets for her kids. Nothing helps. Twenty minutes have passed. I text Amara: "I hate Russia. And I hate train stations. OF COURSE one ticket window is closed and the other is manned by a mentally deficient two-toed sloth masquerading as a woman with a bouffant." This takes two text messages to send, which goes against my text-messaging principles, but I don't care.

Four minutes before the electrichka is due to arrive, I jump ship. I'll have to get my paper ticket at Pervomaiskaya. I am praying that it actually has a ticket window and isn't some dusty half-station, nothing but a platform and a concrete enclosure with broken benches, rotting trash and stray dogs.

I get on the train and sit by a bookish-looking guy about my age. This is also actually a good move, although I don't know that yet. The ticket lady comes around.

"To Pervomaisk, please," I say politely, forking over a fifty-ruble note.

Stay tuned tomorrow for Part Two: Disaster Strikes!

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