Sergei yells the details of the tickets we want—third-class tickets in a few days from
Yaroslavl to Nizhny Novgorod, then a few days later to Izhevsk. This seems to have done
something productive, because Anna begins slamming keys on her keyboard.
A NNA : [something totally inaudible]
S ERGEI: “Shto?”[“What?”]
A NNA: [something totally inaudible]
S ERGEI: “David, she wants to know if we want insurance.”
M E: “For what?”
S ERGEI: “I don't know, and it would be confusing to ask.”
M E: “Okay, no.”
A NNA: [Something that sounds vaguely like “sblum” to me.]
S ERGEI: “Shto? Shto?”
A NNA: [inaudible]
S ERGEI: “Bedsheets?”
M E: “Yes, please.”
S ERGEI: “Da, da.”
Sailboats, seashells . . .
A NNA: “Tri tysyachi pyatsot devyanosto rublei.”
M E: “'3,590 rubles!' I understood that.”
S ERGEI: “Nice. Got the money?”
We pay—around one hundred and twenty dollars total for two third-class seats on these
legs of our journey—and receive beautifully printed pink tickets with the gold seal of the
Russian Railways, the reward for all our troubles. As we walk away, the woman in black
returns to the window and begins screaming at Anna. Misery loves company, and just for
fun I decide to linger. Sergei translates what the woman in black is yelling at Anna about.
“You didn't tell me when you sold me this ticket that I was in an upper berth! Do I look
twenty years old? I have high blood pressure. I can't travel like that.”
Sergei explains that this outburst is likely more about status than this woman's health.
To many Russian travelers, third class alone isn't quite as low as it gets—third class with
an upper berth is rock bottom. It brings the indignity of having to climb up, like a monkey,
anytime you want to reach your sleeping space. To Russians, it's like being spotted driving
a bad car.