August 23, 2017

Another Moment of Zen

Another Moment of Zen
On the streets of Samara. {Photo: Paul E. Richardson}

Our centenarian interlocutors have impressed us with two important rules for living a long life: keep moving, and don’t eat very much.

We’ve been following about half their advice, but not in the way they intended. We have been on the move almost constantly for this project since the beginning of August, sometimes traveling a thousand kilometers or more to meet a single centenarian. But it has been movement by public transport (train and taxi and underground), not so much walking and moving about as our elderly advisers would suggest.

And there has not been much sightseeing along the way. So, while we have visited some interesting new cities for the first time (Samara, Novosibirsk, Ufa, Tarusa, Krasnoyarsk, etc.), our time has been spent with our interviewees, rather than walking the streets or seeing the cities themselves. But then that just gives us a reason to return.

And it should be said we have not been restraining ourselves very well on the eating front. Our hosts have been particularly insistent on filling us up on large meals before we can even get down to interviewing.

The things we have to deal with. {Photo: Paul E. Richardson}

** zen ** zen ** zen **

The executive producer (EP) had our schedule worked out perfectly.

We would check out at noon, have a quick bite to eat, then summon a cab to take us to the train station, where we would catch our 1:40 train. Easy-peasy, and plenty of time to spare.

Only the EP didn’t count on the tear in his shorts showing up in a, well, unsightly location just before checkout.

Archiving family photos. (Really hard to see why the EP's shorts got a tear). {Photo: Paul E. Richardson}

No problem, recalculating… recalculating. EP learned of a shopping mall nearby and headed off to acquire a new pair of shorts.

“I’ll meet you at the restaurant,” he said. And he was off.

Nadya and I ordered up lunches. Shortly thereafter, the EP arrived wearing the same shorts he had left the hotel in 20 minutes before.

“No shorts?” Nadya asked through a mouth full of borshch.

“Yes, there were shorts, but they wanted R13,000!” ($215)

“That seems like a lot. Were they sewn with gold thread?”

“I asked the salesgirl why they were so expensive. ‘They are Armani,’ she said. I said I don’t want Armani, I want shorts!”


“I found a seamstress and she fixed them on the spot for R500 ($8), while I sat in her shop in my underwear.”

Now that’s an EP.

Twenty minutes later, we gathered our things and met the cab. The driver quickly joined in our banter and asked what we were doing in Samara.

“We are journalists,” Misha replied.

“Have you already written something insulting about Samara?” the driver joked.

“No… not yet,” Misha quipped.

And so we arrived at the station on time, fed and happy. We walked up to the dispatch board promptly at 1:10, for our train that departed at… wait a minute… not 1:40, but 1:40 Moscow time. Which would be 2:40 local time.

Apparently an EP distracted by an embarrassing hole in his pants sometimes forgets a larger thing or two.

Like the fact that trains in Russia have, since March 15, 1924, run on a schedule demarcated in Moscow time (something to do with needing to properly coordinate thousands of trains across multiple time zones).

Of course it makes no sense, but then… zen, zen, zen…

This is Russia, after all.

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