the train came to a stop and the door slid open, the exiting wave of humanity slammed into
her—this human standing in their path—flinging her airborne, out of the train and onto the
platform. I rushed off the train and helped her up. By the time she had collected herself and
cursed Russia, our train was on its way to the next station.
. . .
I N THE CITY people who are warm and generous to family and friends in the safe confines
of home become rushed, mean, selfish, and unpleasant in the anonymity of public spaces.
Selfish drivers refusing fellow drivers room to enter side streets or willfully blocking busy
intersections routinely create traffic nightmares. Selfish, uncaring commuters on the metro
create the chaos that landed Rose on her backside on the train platform. So whenever you
leave a family's warm and inviting apartment or a meal at a comfy café in Moscow, it's
worth reminding yourself that you're about to encounter coldhearted bedlam on the streets.
Cars are buzzing by Sergei and me on the twelve-lane avenue outside our office, but
within a few seconds of putting our hands in the air, a black Mitsubishi with tinted win-
dows comes to a sharp stop in front of us, skidding the final two feet over ice. The driver
rolls down the passenger-side window, releasing a plume of cigarette smoke into our faces.
“Yaroslavsky Vokzal,” Sergei says. “Chetyresta,” the driver demands. That's four hun-
dred rubles—about thirteen bucks. A bit pricier than usual, but it's late, and I feel like the
majesty of setting off on a Trans-Siberian journey is a little like heading off on your hon-
eymoon—don't let fussing over money detract from the occasion.
“Price okay?” Sergei asks.
“Sure.” I climb into the backseat. Sergei gets in front with the driver, who is curious
about why Sergei asked the American in the back if the price was acceptable.
“Moi boss, ee on ne ochen harasho gavarit pah-rooski,” Sergei replies. (Rough transla-
tion: He's the boss, but his Russian stinks.)
We are headed to Yaroslavky Vokzal, or Rail Station—one of a dozen major train sta-
tions in Moscow. They are generally named for the city most trains depart for (trains to
St. Petersburg leave from Leningradsky Voksal, for example). Many of the Trans-Siberian
trains depart from Yaroslavsky—at all hours of the day and night.
The traffic on this night is surprisingly light, so after four minutes, the quickest thirteen-
dollar cab ride in history comes to an end. Sergei and I are pulling our bags inside
Yaroslavky Voksal, which is a fistful of humanity. In other countries—say, the United
States—there is some unwritten rule that people generally don't like being active in wee
hours of the night. Russians don't follow that. Flights leave airports at all hours of the night.