Wednesday, August 31, 2005


Did you ever notice how horrible people become come the fall? I am talking about fighting with each other and being a little extra aggressive. I remember this from when I was in Minnesota which is why I think that this must be worse in cold weather regions. We have been getting a lot of this lately and specifically, I have had two events over the last few days that illustrate this point really well.

The first of which was a confrontation I had with a couple of drunk kids at the bus stop out at our village. I didn’t mention this in my last post because it really had nothing to do with what I was talking about, but it happened.

We were out at the stand a bit earlier than we needed to be and while we were sitting there grumpily waiting for the bus, three drunk kids cane to be at the stand. I think they were all in their mid-twenties, and for sure they were all village types (Read: psychotic). They were all bouncing off each other one of them told Tanya to move so that he could sit down. She of course immediately grabbed Anya and ran over towards the general store and something resembling safety. But it was me that the guy wanted. I however, did not move.

At first he asked me to give him an apple from my bag. And you know, I didn’t like him. I said no. But I don’t want to sound as if I am trying to be a big tough guy, it was just that I expected that this was about me. You get used to it after a while. And I was right. I told him no. He sort of liked my disagreeing. I guess I was giving him the excuse he needed to get tough. In any even he smiled at this. He asked me why and I told him it was mine, it was all my work and that these were my things not his. I simply did not understand why I should give him anything. This was enough for him but his two friends sort of got in between us telling him that there was no need to start. From my perspective though, I was looking at three drunk kids though obviously this one guy, Sasha was the one who was instigating. And he was.

Without getting too deep into all of this, he pushed at me and attempted to goad me into a fight for about the next fifteen minutes or so, but I didn’t fight him. I was ready to. I stood up at the beginning and had my stance, but he wouldn’t come. He didn’t back down, he just wouldn’t come. So I sat back down and took up the task of boring and confusing him which is what took all of the fifteen minutes. And it was during that time that I came to understand why he had decided he was free to come after me. It was about my having gotten tough with Misha over that fallen tree. Sasha had heard that I got strong and therefore I might be someone with whom he could then get strong. I guess part of the problem of being a thug is that you need somewhere to exorcize your thugism or it starts to drive you crazy. Certainly this was what I was looking at with Sasha.

But still, I wouldn’t back down, get up or agree with him/ I told him I was absolutely right with Misha. He had made problems for me around town and had played a stupid game with me in the attempt to get some money out of me and therefore I was well within my rights to speak to him directly. I was right. This seemed to be kind of a shock to Sasha and he grew even more confused. He then decided that I would make a good buddy for him and asked me for some money for some wine. I said no. Not a penny. I told him I had only exactly enough for the tickets for the bus and that I wouldn’t give him a penny from it.

“You have money for the bus? Let’s go drink!”

“First of all, I don’t drink. At all. And so I do no need to drink with you.”

“Give me two rubles…”

“No, I won’t give you anything. We are not friends…”

“We are not friends?” This sort of started him gain but I went on anyway.

“No, we are not. I don’t work with you, we are not family and I do not remember ever talking with you other than today. I have no reason to give you anything and you are playing with me like I am a bitch which I am not. So I won’t give you a penny., And by the way, why did you have to scare Tatyana?”

“I didn’t. I asked her to move so that I could sit down.”

“What, you ask a woman with a small baby to get up so that you can sit down? What sort of man are you?” This really messed with him. “And then you come over to me, put your hands on me like I am a bitch trying to get me to fight with you? Look at who you are? What do you get from this? And you do this with everyone. Of course you have nothing. Who would want to work with you?” I opened my book and started to read again. He stared at me for a minute. For a second he looked like he was going to take a swing at me but he didn’t.

“Just give me an apple!” I looked at him.

“Is that all you wanted?” I shook my head and hunted around for the worst apple in the bag. “Here, have an apple.” And that seemed to be that.

Egor said that I should have beaten him and then his friends would have run away. But I didn’t think so. The guy was big, younger than me and crazy. I could have gotten hurt. And, at least in the beginning, the guy had thought he had the moral high ground. I read Sun Su, this was not the place for this fight. So I fought the battle I needed to and came away with what seemed to be a victory for both sides. Sasha got someone to speak to him and we all get to go home without any extra broken bones and abrasions. And of course, no body goes to jail or the hospital.

The second event I wanted to talk about though would seem to fit in that category of accounts of Darwinism at work. You know what I am talking about, those lists of the stupidest criminals and how they have found new and interesting ways to remove themselves from the gene pool. This second one really had nothing to do with me though I was sort of in it at the end helping out.

I was on the bus coming back from Lithuania. And really, I was out of my mind I was so tired. This trip I needed to make to get a new visa was terrible: 10 hours on the bus up, up all night gabbing with some fellow tourists waiting for the embassy to open and then after getting the paperwork done for the visa, I had only a short amount of time to get back across town to the station just to get back on the bus for a second ten-hour stint. Misery.

Anyway we were on the last part of the last leg of the journey, maybe only 10 kilometers from Pinsk and a ticket controller got on the bus to check for non-paying riders. In the back of the bus, she found one young guy, mid twenties with a shaved head, no ID and no ticket. The woman was heavy, mid forties and alone. She asked the guy simply to get off the bus. He told here where she could go. So the ticket controller went to the driver, a tall and pretty athletic looking guy in jeans and a Hawaiian shirt to help. The driver went straight to the back of the bus, asked the guy once to leave and then grabbed him by the collar, pulled him from his seat, led him down the isle to the front door and asked the guy to get out. He did, the door was closed and the bus drove on. I clapped my hands at this extra bit but I was the only one.

At a stop earlier on I had a chance to talk to this driver a bit. He was the same driver that we had on the way up and so I asked him if he was going to have a day off tomorrow. He told me that he didn’t and that he had to be back on the bus the next morning at 10:30 to go back up again. I have spent more than a little time on Greyhounds in my life and added that those drivers would do two eight hour routs, never more than eight hours and never same ones the second day, take a day off and then come back home over two days and then they would have two to three days off after. He told me that he would be working six days in a row Pinsk to Vilnius and back and then he would have two days off. And these were nine hour routs normally, though as with the two hours we were at customs the day before, sometimes it is longer. I thought he was a pretty cool guy.

But no we had started moving again. The ticket controller went back down the isle and when she got to another skinhead who had been sitting next to the guy who was now walking, she found that he didn’t have a ticket either. The driver pulled over to the side again. And so again, the driver marched down the isle to get this next fool off the bus. But this second guy was not going to move. He was throwing around some choice words but he would not allow himself to be thrown off the bus. So the driver heads back to the front of the bus and opens his tool box. everyone was sure he was going to be coming back with a tire iron but instead he came back with a key for the back door. However, this was a Belarusian bus and the door was jammed and so after a minute, the driver stuck the key in his pocket and grabbed the skinhead to pull him out of the seat. The skinhead tried to throw a punch at the driver, but the driver blocked it and put him in a hammer lock and ran him back up the isle. With his free hand, the driver opened the door and then, with the skinhead kicking and screaming the whole way, he shoved him out through the doors and slammed the door in his face.

At this point, and I am not sure that this was necessary, the driver took a moment to bait the skin head. “Hey, look at you, you are off the bus.” This sort of thing. The skinhead started kicking at the door and this only made the driver laugh at him. I guess this really set off the skinhead because in this moment, the skinhead reached down, grabbed the biggest rock he could find, stepped in front of the bus and fired the rock at the front window. Thunk! You know that sound, the sound of safety glass shattering? The driver was in shock. Thunk! A second rock made another spider web. The skinhead was aiming at the driver himself.

So the driver threw open the door and this was when I got into it as did the guy sitting across the isle from me. We both got up and after tossing my glassed onto my seat, we both went out the door after the driver. The driver grabbed the skinhead who tried to swing on him with the rock he had in his hand but the three of us grabbed him and dragged him across the road away from the bus. The guy from across the isle then grabbed the skinheads right foot, locked it in the crook of his arm and using the leverage of his upper torso, twisted slightly, turning the skinhead who did not want his foot snapped over and on to his face. The fight was over. The driver asked that the skin head be released which he was and then he told the skinhead to give him his ID. The skinhead had a small notebook with him and in it was an official document with the skinhead’s photo on it.
The document was his release from jail.

The driver read the paper out loud. Apparently the skinhead had just been released from jail this very day. He had been inside for a couple of months and still had to pay a fine of 170,000 rubles (About $80) in fines for his actions. And of curse, when they let you u of jail, they give you enough money for a bus ticket home. The cost of the ticket from when the skinhead got on would have been about 5000 rubles or, of course, the cost of a couple of bottles of wine. The skinhead and his friend who I guess had also just gotten out had decided to spend their bus money on wine and then just sneak onto the bus. And this is when I spoke up.

“What came into your head?”

“What?” Asked the skinhead, who was now sitting between the three of us on the road.

“You were free. You got caught without a ticket. So what? They didn’t take your name, you weren’t going to jail. You just had to figure out how to make the last 10 kilometers to town. Now you are going back to jail. And they are going to make you pay for the window. Do you know how much that window costs?”

“Who’s window? Is it yours?”

“You were free, you idiot! And now you are going back to jail. What the hell were you thinking of throwing rocks at the bus? How are you not an embarrassment?”

“Embarrassment?” He asked.

“Yes, embarrassment. You couldn’t even control yourself long enough to get home. Throwing rocks at the bus? Look at you. Look at who you are?” And then he started to cry.

“I just wanted to go home. I wasn’t doing anything. Why couldn’t you all just leave me alone!” He was crying and beating his hands in the dirt. And then he started to tear up his release papers all the time crying and screaming curses and insults. He asked us to get him his cigarettes but no one would. We would not let him get up either. He cursed some more and cried a bit more but he stayed on the ground. It was over. And now all he had to do was to wait for the police to come and take him back to jail. And then I guess, he will just have to wait some more.

The police were there actually pretty quickly. They put the skinhead into the car and took my name as well as the name of the guy from across the isle. They took pictures of the window and statements from all of us. And then we got back on the bus and finally made those last few miles back to town. I shook hands with the driver when I got off the bus and told him that the next time; I was buying his coffee and cakes at the rest area.

I bought a small watermelon from the stand next to the bus stop and grabbed a TV journal from the kiosk across the street. I was happy to be home myself and thought a couple of presents might make being there even better. September is always tricky I think. Mybe it is the cold weather. People get a little crazy.

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