Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Self-Imposed Blindness: Part II

Lately I have been refusing to take the metro in the morning due to the dinginess and darkness inside of the deep pits underground. Also, I have to walk fifteen minutes out of the way if I take the metro. Instead, on sunny Petersburg mornings, I stand near the bus stop sign waiting for the #40 bus while listening to Russian worship songs or reading Tolstoy. Plus, the bus drops me off right in front of my university.

This morning was different. After waiting for 40 minutes for the bus, I became worried that I might be late for classes. Thankfully, only a few minutes later the bus rolled up to the stop, exhaust blazing in the direction of the sidewalk as the blue sky became hazed above. Sigh. Passengers filed out of the front doors after swiping their passes. The middle and last doors remained closed as to not let fare cheaters escape. The Russians and I huddled near the middle doors to enter as quickly as possible (for some reason). Some Russian man near me repeatedly puffed his burning cigarette into my face. Sigh. Another chugged his beer as I eyed an extra in his jacket pocket. Sigh.

We long-jumped onto the bus over the trash-filled curb and quickly held onto the railings in the bus as it sped off around the traffic circle. But the middle doors did not close. Cold air rushed into the bus. Babushkas, children, young people, and all others stared aimlessly, not saying a word. Tilting along the circle, I feared that a pothole could rocket launch a child through the gaping hole in the wall of the bus. Did they not see what I saw?

I looked into each passenger's eyes. I watched their heads turn towards the open doors. No one said a word.
I considered telling the driver myself that the doors were open. I worked out the correct Russian phrase in my head. No one said a word.
I looked out the doors to people staring inside. No one said a word.
I looked at their pursed mouths, the hollowed-out sockets of their eyes, and their stiff-like postures. No one said a word.

My mind raced with questions and answers of how it was possible that these passengers could ignore such a blatant fact in front of them, affecting them with every draft of cold air chilling their faces. Is it that they are just so burdened by living in Russia that they choose to ignore the insignificant absurdities of everyday life? Are they genuinely not concerned with their personal safety? Do they not want to be the first one to speak up? Anger erupted inside of me. Just say something! You could change the system! You can speak up for yourself! It doesn't have to be this way! Stop being such cowards!

No one said a word. No one asked any questions.

Maybe, just maybe, this is the mentality that permitted legalized slavery in the 19th and even 20th centuries, the expulsion and murder of the royal Russian family, the subsequent civil war, and the six decades of Communist rule in the Motherland. Just maybe. But for now, the Russian themselves are not asking any questions.

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