This is a continuation from: Trans Siberian Tales – Getting strangled by a Russian kid, Jee-ma
I am relating this story not to scare you, But Russians love their drink, and it might be inevitable that you meet some drunks on the Trans Siberian train.
The question is, how do you deal with them?
It was our second last night on the Trans Siberian. My travelling companion and I both had beds on the upper berths, and we were sitting at the bottom berth, having our dinner of instant noodles, sardines and apples.
The two Russians who took the lower berths were having a good conversation, and decided to proceed to the restaurant car for drinks. I based this on my observation that those two goons had been gone for more than an hour, and there’s really nothing else you can do on the train for one hour other then to visit the restaurant car, which is located a few carriages down the train.
The two Russians returned. The fat one, I shall call him Fat Belly, was wearing a T-shirt and you could see multiple tatoos on peeping out from his chest and arms.
The other one, I shall call him Pajamas because he was wearing a garment which resembled pajamas. He looked decent enough but appeared to be very tipsy and immediately went to sleep when he returned, even without making his bed. Eew. (There are bedsheets provided on the Russian train and it is considered unhygienic by (Phebe Bay) and Russian standards if you do not put on the bedsheets).
Fat Belly still had a bluetooth device stuck in his ear and was busy talking on the phone. Although his face was reddish, you could tell he was still sober. He even tried to talk to us. Jibber jibber something in Russian, and we pretended to understand and agree with him.
Then he went to sleep. Or at least pretended to sleep. Then some minutes later, the waitress from the restaurant car walked by, together with the train attendant. She carried a receipt with her – it seems that these two men had not paid for the drinks they ordered in the restaurant car. Fat Belly talked to them while Pajamas remained fast asleep.
They had a rapid exchange in Russian and we thought the matter had been resolved. Fat Belly went back to lie down on and we thought he was fast asleep, so we headed back to our upper berths to rest.
Just as I was about to keep my glasses and go to sleep, we heard rough Russian voices being exchanged. This time, the waitress of the restaurant car was accompanied by a different man – he was quite slim with white hair and they started arguing about the payment once again.
Fat Belly ruffled up Pajamas who was still fast asleep, and I heard a knock which sounded like a head knocking against the train divider.
We are not sure what happened next because we were on the upper berths. I dare not look down, but there seems to be an argument in Russian, with Fat Belly on the phone again. It sounded like he was talking to one of his “brothers” while roughing out Pajamas at the same time.
At that moment, I had a conflict between mind and heart. In my brain, it was definitely a “dangerous” situation. Horror stories of Russian drunks floated across my mind, but my heart was perfectly calm.
Yes, this tatooed dude was a little tipsy, but I would think completely conscious, in possession of all his mental faculties. Secondly, I don’t think he was about to rob us (in broad trainlight) to pay for his restaurant bill. Thirdly, I guessed that “face” is quite important to such people. So as long as we did not get in the way, it shouldn’t be a problem.
I was lying on my narrow berth, and looked for any weapons of defence, just in case. Oh dear.. All that was within my reach was a half filled 1.5 litre bottle of water.
Then Fat Belly caught side of my companion looking at him from the upper berth.
“Eye! What you looking at. Look away!” I assumed that was what he was saying in Russian, as he did a “turn your head away” sign.
He said it in a rather booming, rough voice and we both had a shock. My companion quickly looked away. Thank goodness Fat Belly left us alone after that.
He continued talking on his mobile phone. We were so relived when he took up his winter jacket and wore a cap. He was about to leave at the next stop.
We had quite a peaceful night later on, only to be awaken up early in the morning by Pajamas who had awaken and was making some noise below but that was fine.
It’s an irony, because we were discussing earlier that morning about the Trans Siberian missing a huge part of “epicness”. We both concurred that it was more “monotonous” than “epic”.
Later did we know that Russian drunks were about to be part of our “reality TV” later on.
Therefore, be careful of what you wish for. That being said, I am thankful that we had that experience and were remained safe.
Looking back, I always wondered why I was so calm that day. As I had mostly been in India, except for once when I felt that I was really in danger.
Then I realised it was the eyes. Language only serves to confuse people. But across fleeting continents and borders, look into the eyes when in doubt. It never fails.
Watch out for my next post on Moscow!