The 5 Worst things on the Moscow metro

I'll state briefly that I love the metro like one of my numerous illicit love children that are dotted all throughout the Former Soviet Union (it’s far better than the London tube piece of shit), but still, here are some of some of my top metro rage triggers...

5 –Babushka wars (probably could have written a whole post about this alone)
War against the Russian babushkas (or babki as the transport variety are usually called) comes in all shapes and sizes. Whether you’re fighting with then in a bank, or any line or any sort, they’ll be a daily part of your Russian existence.
On the metro, they’re not so aggressive, but they do need seats.
                                                       This is what a seat starts to look like at rush hour

This leads you to the crisis point where you have been standing for too long, ingesting the various odours when finally you see that golden seat opportunity open up! As you move towards that sweet, sweet spot, you catch a glimpse of either a frail, sweet babushka, or a pushy fat one in an outrageous hat of some kind. 
                                                             You better believe she means business

You know you have to give her the seat, least you risk the shame-eye of all the other Russians.
So of course, you slither back to your spot. I sometimes do a semi-embarrassing walk-by, as if I just wanted to choose a new place to stand in. I look like a dick when performing this manoeuvre, but at least my conscience is spared.

There are, of course, those other moments when you are sitting, reading, or gaming when you become aware that a babushka is approaching your area.


Then comes the real moment of truth - do you wait for someone else to give her the seat or will you pretended you didn't see the babushka? ( we've all done it!). Of course, if you do wait for someone else, it just makes you a victim of bystander syndrome which is is better that choosing not to look up, even though those are obviously not the legs of a young person.
(Just remember, If you don't look them in the eyes, they're not there).

Also, something else to be aware of is fat women who haven't aged well - they can, at first glance, appear to be babushkas. I've actually given up seats only to realise that it's a rough-looking, chubby 50 year old lady. Now I glance at my girlfriend for confirmation as to babushka status. 
But of course, getting a seat is more of a luxury in peak times, far more common is

4 – Stench
The Moscow metro would be a regular paradise for the main character from the move Perfume: the story of a murderer (which was surprisingly not bad ).
Unfortunately for the rest of us, things are a bit different.

I find the smells come in two basic forms – good ole’ fashion BO and the hangover booze fumes (although strong-smelling-garlic man also pops ups from time to time).
The BO variety is at peak in summer when arms are rising up to grab to railing.
When you see that arm reaching for the sky, you know you are about to be punched in the face by a trucker's armpit.

                                                                                  Afternoon ladies

The other regular guest is booze guy who by some miracle of Karma usually ends up squashed right in front of you forcing you to ingest the перегар (Russian word for the hangover alcohol fumes). 
As a bonus, booze guys sometimes have booze with them, starting that shit up at 9am - alcoholic stereotype style. Before your nose has recovered, another challenger appears to attack your conscience.

3 – Guilt-inducing war veteran / beggars 
Maybe the only reason my conscience is active is because I don’t give them money. I just don’t trust that most metro beggars are legit (pretty much all of them have to kick up to organised crime).  It especially annoys me when they use drugged out animals to get the pity vote. Sure, the sign says ‘spare some change for animal food’, but fuck that, I know where that money is really going:


As for the veterans, they just make me feel weird because they magnify their injury. Call me a stone-cold bastard, but there’s just something unnerving about a man propelling himself around with blocks of wood while sitting on a piece of board with wheels.

2 – Seat blocker 
Ok, maybe I like to sit down too much, maybe I have a problem with it, but I'm sure I'm not alone in saying the seat blocker is a real pain the ass. The seat blocker, as opposed to me, loves standing and he favourite place to do this, is right in front of an empty seat.

Somehow, it's as if has as a forcefield - if he wasn't there, you'd be in that seat in a flash, but because he is there, the tiny amount of extra effort it would take to move around him causes you to delay and someone else gets the coveted seat. Sometimes I decide to not even bother so I just look on at him/her and stew in my own juices.

1 – The crowding
As much as I love the metro, when you’re on it at peak times, either in the morning or from about 5 - 7 at night , the endless sea of people can get frustrating, especially in winter when they’re all maxed out in fur. From the moment you get squeezed in there, the aforementioned stench hits while your personal space is violated harder than Indiana Jones was in the Crystal Skull...

                                                            thanks to South Park for that comparison 

The most fun is when there are so many people cramming to get into the metro, you actually get shuffled along in a human wave which goes on up until you reach the escalators - a bit like a rockstar riding a fan wave - except you're not a rockstar and you're actually riding a sea of angry babushka.

The thing I don’t get though is why, in a country with so many amazingly hot women, I fail to ever be squashed into a crowd with them.

Instead of being pressed up against Miss Russia 2012, I have to either physically inhale some guy's mullet from the front, or  relish the sensation of a homeless, alcoholic man's penis being pressed into my leg from behind. 

Oh, and it gets hot as balls in there too!

Drop me a comment if you have any good metro stories.

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Anonymous said...

Can't forget the angry/douchey Caucuses guy that pushes you out of the way or tries to cop a feel on your girlfriend.

Also, the one-man-band that roams up and down the train playing the musical equivalent of poop, and somehow decides that YOU are the person that he/she will wait for a donation from.

vowles_23 on January 11, 2014 at 3:10 PM said...

Third last sentence. Absolutely brilliant.

Anonymous said...

Great article!

Lt. Columbo on January 12, 2014 at 6:46 PM said...

thanks guys, i know you feel my pain

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