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In Russia, the first week of January is one long holiday, from New Year to the Orthodox Christmas on January 7. At least it is for those like me who do not work shifts, serve as accountants or occupy other time-sensitive positions. Every year at the start of this holiday, I hope that this time I would do something productive, and every year I do nothing but a lot of sleep, an outing or three, some small errands and a lot of lazing about.

This year was the same when on on January 4 mother and I decided to go out in search of new chairs.

The backstory to this is that my parents are hoarders, and my father is used to doing most repairs and gadget maintenance himself. Maybe he has always enjoyed such tinkering, maybe money was tight when my brother and I were young and he had little choice, maybe a bit of both.

As he grows older, however, he has less and less energy to do that which needs doing, and yet barely tolerates hiring help or throwing things out and replacing them. The problem with hired help is the quality of the work they do. Father thinks everything through very thoroughly and works well, if not always in the easiest, fastest and most conventional ways. The hoarding is a leftover from the days when materials were hard to come by, and when he used everything at hand to solve maintenance problems.

These days, both these habits mostly lead to increasing clutter when old things are kept just in case or awaiting repairs that never happen, and new ones take more and more extra space.

As of early January, we had four reliable chairs mother and I had bought five years earlier, four less reliable ones that father had repaired some years before that, and five or six more that were so shaky nobody dared sit on them. Those were used to pile clothing on and littered with things that are always waiting to take over all available surfaces.

This is why we had to go scouting for new furniture, intending to also use the occasion to get rid of the worst old chairs on hand.

Weekend, or worse, holiday errands are a bit of a deal for me. I don't like getting up early or going places at once after dragging myself out of bed; I take time walking around, surfing some internet and slowly getting myself together instead.

It was like that on Monday afternoon, the preparations made even longer by the need to dress for the suddenly wintry weather. The temperatures had finally dropped to the seasonal -10 C (15 F) only a week prior, having flirted with the Octobery freezing point for two months longer than is usual in our climate. When it gets this cold and colder, I consider my clothing options carefully. (Is it time yet for warmer trousers? Do I wear my thick hat and put old gloves inside my mittens for extra insulation?) That day, I decided on my favourite pair of old trousers, worn out and patched in my favourite place between the thighs, telling myself that I did not care about the patch coming loose on one side or about fixing it at once, relying on the cover of my knee-long warm coat.

Finally, off my mother and I went at 5 p.m., throwing two chairs into the garbage container. We decided to take a bus to our favourite furniture shopping place, a larger street with tram tracks in the middle and furniture stores left, right, center and across.

To our satisfaction, the bus arrived almost at once, sparing us an unpleasant wait in the cold. Only a few people boarded it because of the time of the day and the holiday, yet mother and I were separated by a young man who wheedled his way in and quite effectively jammed the isle, asking the driver questions about the route the bus would be taking. Miffed at the hold up, I squeezed past the interloper and joined my mother at the end of the bus.

Having changed his mind about the ride, the young man exited, the bus departed...

...and that was when the otherwise sleepy and pleasant day came to a screeching stop.

Putting my handbag into my lap as is habit whenever I have a seat on the public transport, I noticed that the main zipper was open. I always keep it closed, and my transport card in an outside pocket.

You can easily guess the rest. The obstructive rat mugged me in the few seconds I was squeezing past and using my card to pay the fare at the automatic reader machine!

In hindsight, I could name red flags in his behaviour (exaggerated shaking from cold, occupying demonstrably too much space in the isle, impatient and purposeful humming). I could also point the ways I was not as careful as I might have been (keeping the wallet on top of the easiest reachable compartment of my bag, relaxing my awareness of proximity, not keeping the zipper fully closed), but what's done is done.

As often happens on such occasions, it was the only time in months I had a significant amount of cash in the wallet, favouring electronic transactions, as well as next month's fully charged transport card.

A shame, an annoyance, an irritation, an expensive experience. Food for thought, and quite a distracting new source of anxiety.

I exited the bus on the next stop, leaving my mother to do the window-shopping for chairs on her own, and returned home to deal with most urgent part of the affair: blocking stolen bank cards, which was accomplished without further loss of money.

I have since recovered most of the losses, but I admit to a feeling of decreased personal safety that will take a while to pass. No crowded spaces, fairs or malls for me until then.

No new chairs for us at this time, either: mother's trip was equally a disappointment.

Street where it happened.
View of a street in Moscow from an elevated sidewalk. Snowheap in the foreground, two modern 17-story buildings in the distance. A parked car on the right, stairs descending to street level on the left leading to the entrance to a metro station. A bus stop further away with a white and green bus standing near it.


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 22nd, 2016 06:00 pm (UTC)
We are team Norbert.

ConCrit is welcome.

I am concerned with the flow of the story: was the beginning interesting enough to get you to the juicy ending? Also, should I have included a warning because of it? (I think it was a mild enough mishap not to warrant one).
Jan. 23rd, 2016 01:49 pm (UTC)
My smart phone got stolen exactly in the same manner few years back in a overcrowded bus..I had just spoken on the phone and since the bus arrived , I hastily shoved it in the front pocket of my purse. Can very well understand your plight.

As for the flow it did keep me hooked till the end. Liked the addition of a picture(crime scene).:) Personally I feel a warning is not needed. A nice piece of non - fiction.
Jan. 23rd, 2016 05:16 pm (UTC)
How awful! Thankfully, I have never been mugged despite working many times in New York City and visiting large cities like London, Barcelona, Los Angeles, etc. I'm glad you didn't lose too much!
Jan. 23rd, 2016 06:00 pm (UTC)
I enjoyed this and your other "messages from Russia" very much, although I am a sorry about the theft. I loved the picture at the end.
Jan. 23rd, 2016 08:35 pm (UTC)
Ugh. I am so disappointed for you. What a frustrating start to the year! Glad that you were able to make such a well written and engaging entry out of it though. I really enjoyed this - though not for your misfortune.
Jan. 23rd, 2016 10:09 pm (UTC)
It's easy to look back and think "I should have recognized that behavior," but I think most people would have a hard time believing that they could have something stolen from them at any time.

This didn't merit a trigger warning, by my book. I like the bit about your father, but I wonder how much it contributed to the ending.
Jan. 24th, 2016 06:53 am (UTC)
What an obnoxious thing to have happen, and during the holidays no less. Even more unfortunate that you had extra cash for your errand, though it's good that you didn't lose anything from your credit cards.

That does not put anyone in much of a holiday frame of mind. :(
Jan. 24th, 2016 06:44 pm (UTC)
I was drawn in for sure; my mom is also something of a hoarder, to the point where one day when I said there was no room for something, she got frustrated and said something like "you don't understand how poor I've been!" and I felt some sympathy (but also we can't just shove that amount of stuff into our space). I really like the glimpse into your life, and the photograph at the end. I'm sorry that happened, though, getting stuff stolen and having to deal with the aftermath is pretty stressful. Thanks for writing!
Jan. 25th, 2016 07:57 pm (UTC)
Goodness. So glad you're okay, and weren't hurt. Sorry you had this experience. Frustrating to lose your sense of safety, I'm sure. That's the hardest theft of all, I imagine. But, there's some value in being more wary now, even if that's no worthwhile concession. Glad you were able to recover most of your losses, though. Hope you're feeling at least somewhat comfortable again soon, if not relaxed, when out and about going forward. Too bad you weren't able to get rid of those old chairs! But here's hoping you find suitable replacements in the not too distant future. ;)
Jan. 26th, 2016 02:49 am (UTC)
I'm so sorry this happened to you. How very frustrating and infuriating.

Winter. It looks just the same, here.
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )

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