Russian Travels

Columns | Ksenia Kuvaeva | April 2009

Dear Diary,

I love to travel – train, bus, ship or plane, it doesn’t matter, just as long as I get from one destination to another. But with my Russian family, no trip begins or ends ‘normally’…

This time we are off to the U.S. Our luggage packed and waiting at our door, we sat for a moment on the sofa in the hall. Russians do this before leaving, for good luck and well, to simply remember if you forgot anything or not. In my opinion it was unnecessary, and we were already running late…

Moments later we were rushing through traffic, swerving from one lane to the other, my hand reaching for a nearby plastic bag, just in case. Wheels screeching, we pulled in at the terminal and parked in the taxi lane. "It says, ‘No Parking’, Dad," I pointed out. He dismissed the remark with a wave. "We are Russians, dear!" explained my father. Stumbling out, I was dragging my and my mother’s luggage.

Checked in, my dad grabbed the tickets and we sprinted off to the terminal, my mother teetering behind on her spiked heels. Neither rain nor sleet nor snow will stop her from looking flawless. Entering the plane, I let out a sigh of relief. At last!

I tagged along behind my father, who is such a sight! Tall, well-built, bearded – always a serious looking man –he often doesn’t even need to speak to get what he wants; just a single glance will send shivers down anyone’s spine.

Now, he stopped in the middle of the aisle and pulled out the tickets. Staring down at the paper, he frowned and I knew something was wrong. He looked at the numbers, at the tickets, at the three Austrian businessmen occupying the seats and then back at the tickets. With his large finger, almost poking one of them in the eye, he pointed at the three men, barking in a heavy Russian accent: "15 D, E, C," then looks at the ticket and repeats "15 D, E, C!" Turning back to the men he bellowed in a loud tone, "You three! OUT!"

I have never on earth seen grown men this petrified in my life, shooting glances at one another, collecting their things, confusion and fear in their eyes. I glanced down at the tickets and swallowed. I tugged on my father’s sleeve, gently, not wanting him to get cross at me for interfering and standing on my tiptoes whispered into his ear:

"Uhm, Daddy… Those aren’t the seat numbers. That’s the date: the 15th of December!" He was silent for a moment, digesting this information, and then blurted out in aggressive Russian, "Damn it!" and walked on. I blushed – from pink to crimson, and then to scarlet – and apologized to the men several times, none of which had understood a single word, or the situation. What more could I do? I shuffled off after my father.

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