Part One: Some Bad Decisions On My Part
Part Two: Disaster Strikes
"What do you mean, Pervomaisk?" she responds. "You probably want to go to Rostov," and hands me a forty-eight ruble Rostov ticket and two rubles change. She's half started walking away when I stammer out, "No, I need to go to Pervomaisk. That's where my train leaves from."
"Well, we don't go to Pervomaisk. This train goes the western route to Rostov. Didn't you see that on the schedule in the station? You should read the schedule before you get on the train."
I don't really remember how this happened, but within approximately thirty seconds it became clear to everyone in the entire car that I needed to be at Pervomaisk by one o'clock and was now trapped on a train that was not going to get me there. Within the next thirty seconds, at least half of them had informed me, one at a time, that I ought to have left earlier.
The ticket lady was singularly unhelpful; she quickly vanished. Not knowing what to do, I planted my forehead against the train window, closed my eyes and tried to think. At this point, the guy next to me (Viktor from Stavropol, I will be forever in your debt!) said, "Excuse me... I'm not from around here, but what I'd do is get off at a station before Pervomaisk and see if you can't take a taxi from there. Obviously if you go all the way to Rostov and then trace back, you won't make it. But, I mean, I'm not from this region..."
"I'm not even from this COUNTRY!" I wail.
"I know. I can hear your accent," he replies. (Thanks, Viktor.)
Seeing that Viktor is nice enough to help the stupid foreign girl, my other neighbors perk up and offer up the name of the station where the western and southern routes to Rostov separate: that's where I should get off. I call Amara and inform her that I'm not going to make it to Pskov, ever. I am mostly joking. We work out that, in any case, I have until 7 p.m. tomorrow to reach Moscow, since that's when my Moscow-Pskov train leaves. So I can catch a different train if I have to, or even the 5 a.m. plane. Everything will be ok. Expensive, maybe, but ok.
I hang up and try to do some reading. I can't concentrate. Viktor, either seeing my distress or just interested in chatting with cute-but-stupid foreign girls, starts up a conversation which distracts me enough to keep me from crying. I learn that he graduated from college in 2006, works with computers, and was visiting a friend in Taganrog while on business in Rostov. He asks if I like Russia. ("Yes, except the trains," I say.) He reminisces about some Peace Corps Americans who lived in Stavropol in the nineties and refused to wear hats when it was cold. We joke that Taganrog does not follow the laws of Euclidean geometry; he got lost on his visit and was instructed to "follow Chekhov street til it intersects with Alexandrovskaya, which runs parallel." (Taganrog's main streets radiate from a single point, then bend to become parallel with each other.)
Eventually the ticket-lady wanders back and, apparently in a more helpful mood, explains where I should go to find a taxi once I get off. She also mentions, in case this hadn't already occurred to me, that I should have left earlier. I forgive her for this, however, when she leaves again and comes back with a girl who's getting off at the same place I am. (Note to self: ticket ladies wield great power. Get on their good side.)
Will Boris and Natasha get away with their dastardly plan? Will MacGyver fish the paperclip out of his pocket in time to defuse the bomb? Are we all just doomed? Find out tomorrow in Part Three: No Action Film is Complete Without a Car Chase!