On you shall not pass.

That little dance that two British people sometimes do when their paths intersect, where one person steps politely to the left to get out of the way just as the other person steps politely to their right, and back and forth and back and forth, until, goaded beyond endurance, eventually one of them is forced to take that self indulgent step forward instead of sideways?

Wouldn’t happen in Russia.

Russians will stick to their pre-determined route making only the most infinitesimal adjustment necessary in order to achieve their objective without actually trampling someone else underfoot. It helps that the Russian sense of personal space is a tad smaller than the 18-foot circle required by most Brits but you haven’t got the hang of it at all and regularly get walked into by Russians intent on turning left without signalling this in any way that non-Russians can pick up on.

And of course, when you do move, conspicuously, out of someone’s way, it is never acknowledged.

This behaviour annoys you particularly when you and the Star are slowly cruising down a wide, a very wide and otherwise completely unoccupied flight of stairs and yet still get climbed over by a Russian who decided long ago that she was going to go down the left hand side of these steps and isn’t going to change her path more than a few millimetres just because someone else is already using that space.

Anyway, you can’t think how you managed to forget this particular idiosyncracy, given that you have regularly watched your MiL make it onto the bus first in the UK regardless of how many other people are standing there or how near the front she starts out. British people are just not equipped to deal with someone who would prefer to barge shoulders with them rather than alter their plans or, god forbid, give way. The awful thing is, now you are here in Moscow*, you are having flashbacks to the number of times you have seen people leaping out of your way on London pavements as you flash past them, holding your line without a glance left or right to say thanks.

And the Star has definitely picked up on this method of forging through a crowd. That he is often four feet shorter and many many kilograms lighter than the people he is ignoring when following the crow’s path to the playground worries him not a bit.

Still, it does remind you that there’s a reason why you never attempted to drive in Russia.

* Or not. See What I did on my Holidays Part 1.


5 thoughts on “On you shall not pass.

    • It’s a lovely description, your poem, Ti, but one that definitely describes Russia better than the UK. I should perhaps have made it clearer that Russians do not crash into each other, it’s just me who gets bonked, B doesn;t for example, presumably because I am missing the signals.

      The Brits at Rush hour, on the other hand, are just appalling. They scramble over each other left right and centre, but mainly because they are useless about positioning themselves in any circumstance that doesn’t allow them the 18ft of personal space they need to feel comfortable.

  1. Илья Казначеев says:

    “one person steps politely to the left to get out of the way just as the other person steps politely to their right”

    In my experience that happens quite often. But usually not on street. On street people are trying to keep to their side of street, and then they can’t they’re going to walk over as you described.

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