Friday, December 19, 2008

Lucky Number Seven

Lugging my purchases (liter of milk, liter of vodka, laundry soap, chicken breasts, beef, paper towels, carton of eggs, cream cheese, salami, pickles, yogurt drinks, red and orange peppers, broccoli, Diet Coke, tonic water, chicken stock cubes, and five red and green Christmas garlands), I just arrived back home from the grocery store to discover the elevator, which was functioning when I left the building, is not working now that I have returned to the building.

I had to carry my bags up seven, SEVEN! flights of stairs. In the interest of journalistic accuracy, I weighed the heavier bag. It weighed seven kilos.

Oh, and did I mention the cat puked just inside the door while I was gone. So that when I pushed open the door, it dragged over the cat yack. Good thing I just bought more paper towels.

I've been in a bit of a state lately, what with this economic crisis and all. Although, and I say this for the record, I have not personally experienced any inconvenience or change in lifestyle because of it, I have heard about expats and Russians losing their jobs here. The rate of exchange is drifting, slowly toward favorable because the only thing worse than the state of the U.S. dollar right now is confidence in the Russian ruble. But nothing has changed enough to make us rich, and if the ruble crashes it will only make just about everything I buy more expensive because just about everything I buy is imported. Not because I am some sort of snob, either. It's just that Russia produces petroleum and not much else. Okay, vodka.

What's got me worked up are the rumblings I have been hearing about increased crime in Moscow. Again, let me speak clearly into the microphone for the transcript: I have not been a victim of crime in any way here (aside from The Spouse's wallet . . . but he got it back intact), nor have I ever even felt uncomfortable. But I have heard, via the expat forums, stories of apartments being robbed. The occasional mugging. Breaches of security in apartment building lobbies. There was the suggestion that carrying a second, worthless, and basically empty wallet is advised so that should one be mugged, you can hand off the bogus wallet (complete with some business cards of people you don't care for or don't remember meeting and some old loyalty cards from local businesses) while your real wallet remains safely nestled in another pocket.

All well and good if you are a man with a lot of pockets.

But what if you are a woman and feel compelled to carry around a cell phone, metro map and pass, emergency woman supplies, artificial sweetener, lipstick, Advil, a pocket calendar and pen, and a passport with an oversize Russian visa that is neither attached to the passport nor fits in the passport, in addition to the standard wallet contents of bank card, paper money, and coins? I travel light, actually. And I have given up carrying around my pocket Russian-English phrasebook/dictionary.

Oh, and my keys . . . I've explained about the giant set of jailer's keys I am required to carry around, right? I have friends who have a tiny device to open the front door to their building . . . something small and discreet and the size of, oh, a cotton swab tip. . . and one door key. I have seven keys (lucky number seven, again). You can't leave them lose in many coat pockets because they will rip the pocket lining. And make your coat hang askew on your body.

I had been leaving my passport at home, even though we are required to carry them. I figured it was easier to pay a fine than to replace a lost or stolen passport. But now I am also hearing it is more likely that the police, who normally ignore foreigners, could, feeling the economic pinch themselves, be more inclined to ask for papers.

My compromise is to carry mine, but not the children's.

But the purse thing. Oh, the purse thing. I have been wrestling with it. I had a tiny purse on a long strap that I tucked my money and bank card into one day, while carrying everything else (and a big, older wallet) in an old Coach purse. Unwieldy. Especially when I have to dig out the little purse in order to pay for something.

So I ditched the little purse and put everything in the Coach purse. It, too, has a long strap so I can wear it across my body.

But it has been really cold here, and I want to wear my fur coat. A purse across the body and outside the coat will rub off the fur. So I have to wear it under my coat, which pushes the already too-big coat that much farther away from my body, allowing the frigid Moscow wind to blow right up the front of me.

I tried a "purse on a belt" option, but the purse was just big enough that it made me look like I was packing heat under my coat.

So now I am back to a really ugly Nine West purse I bought a few years ago. It is, by design, an across-the-body purse. Black. About as pretty and feminine as bandolier. I look like Pancho Villa. But it has a separate pocket for my phone. And the main pocket is large enough for my wallet, my passport, my pocket calendar, and my keys.

I'm just gonna play fast and loose with the other items.

Taking my chances.

Better not mess with me.


TRex said...

Damn, what is it with women and purses! I fight with my wife all the time about this. It takes her forever to pay for an item, find her Metro pass/ringing cell phone and so on all the while she is a sitting duck. Heaven forbid that the hubby should try to organize her purse, might as well find a buddy with a couch for a week or so *I will never be forgiven*.

Bottom line is to not get freaked out as you live in the center and not out around power station #29. The Militia is for sure starting to bottom feed but if you have a notarized copy of your passport with relevant pages you are fine.

When I was in a particularly nasty part of Russia I had a pre written message that I could send to an extraction team with the push of one button on my smart phone, but I don’t think Moscow is anywhere near that threat level yet.

Be chillin grrrl! And as to the cat spew, burn the flat stat!

Tina in CT said...

Maybe if would-be muggers think you're packing heat, they won't mug you. Won't the ugly purse worn outside also rub off the fur? What do Russian women do?

I wanted to answer your question on my daughter's blog about where her Ebay purchases go? Come step into my living room right now and you'll see the answer. I am like a warehouse here as she buys ahead if she sees something. The Josephina clothes and doll plus a porclein tea set for Molly or Elizabeth have been a fixture in my house for about two years. I also am storing LOTS of other stuff. It's fun to get the boxes, open them and oh and ah over the purchases.

Grandma's Warehouse in New England

valentina said...

Oh jesus the stuff we have to schlep and never mind when it's hot and you have to add a bottle of water, and I always have gum and the drug arsenal and a folding umbrella if it seems like rain...I always regret it when I don't take a book or NYer or at least my Times with me and I always have WADS of kleenex...buried at the bottom is a hair brush which I seldom if ever use. Digging for my cell or is impossible and I don't know how men can manage with only a wallet... many of mine have man bags which are of course purses... And when I am teaching I have a huge carryall stuffed with papers to be graded and passed back and my grade book...well you can remember how that was...Sometimes it is so heavy it is all I can do to lug it down the hallway let alone into the building...It is all made worse by the cumbersomeness of winter with scarves, gloves, sweaters and coats and too much stuff to drag...

I hope they got your abysmal elevator repaired. That is really horrific. You have my total and utter sympathy...poor rabbit...xov

Luna said...

IMHO, you need to limit what you're carrying in your purse to 7 items. This will give you good karma, and you will not need to worry about getting mugged.

I'm sorry, but I did laugh gleefully about the cat gack! So happy to know that I am not the only one being tortured by a friendly feline. (I will need to make a recording of the sounds I need to endure in the morning before I feed our little SOB. It's hair raising, really.)

Have you given up wine entirely for the local brew? :)

The Expatresse said...

I wear the bandlier under my coat. It's flatter against my body than the Coach purse. But it means my keys are often in it and I have to unbutton the coat and fish out the keys. I try to have items I need at hand IN my hand before I need to sue them to eliminate fumbling and, as TRex put it, "sitting duck-ness." I was trained by New Yorkers.

To Tina: I do that closer to the time I head State-side. Long about June, I start sending stuff to my dacha in Ohio.

The Expatresse said...

Oh, and to Luna: Vodka is quicker and doesn't usually leave me with a headache. But I stopped in an Azbuka today (don't ask . . . I was there, it was there) and, lo and behold, they had 1.5 liters of tonic. For 235 rubles! Oh, and diet tonic, too. For 270 rubles. $10 for a freakin' bottle of tonic.

I got two tiny cans . . . like what you get on an airplane . . . for 60 rubles. That'll limit my vodka consumption today. But The Spouse drinks it neat. I only drink it neat when it's got hot peppers or honey added. ("shpirtzum"? Is that the word? Anyone? Beuhler?)

Kelsey said...

I'm the odd one here, I think. I am a woman and I have never in my life owned a purse. Now that I am a photographer, I carry a camerabag most of the time, but when I don't, I just carry my wallet in my pocket, and that's it.

Vodka is one of the only "hard" alcohols that I can drink until the cows come home. I blame the fact that my father, while not born in Russia, is from Russian parents.

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