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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

GROWING PAINS: Why My Younger Son May Not Ride the Bus




We just spent a week in St. Petersburg, and rode canal boats and a hydrofoil, played and picnicked at Peterhof, ate in cafes, and otherwise had a wonderful time. But the highlight for our 2 1/2-year-old son, Galen, was riding the city bus and trolley -- sitting in the front seat, and asking question upon question about the driver, the gears, the buttons.


We were not surprised; he has been nagging us for weeks and weeks to ride on the buses in Moscow. But thanks to my resolution to better get to know Russian writers, I have refused to ride on a bus in Moscow for a year now.


Last summer, I joined a group of about 15 women in a Russian literature reading group on a trip to Yasnaya Polyana, Tolstoy's country estate located about 200 kilometers south of Moscow. We boarded a small bus with an English-speaking guide and headed out.


About 80 kilometers into the trip, our bus rammed a truck in front of us. After a few moments of panic because the door was jammed shut, we all got out and took inventory. Nearly everyone was hurt, but none of the injuries appeared life-threatening. And it was less the accident than the aftermath that left me unwilling to get back on a bus -- let alone those taxi vans that scoot all over the city carrying commuters.


An ambulance came quickly, but after speaking with the driver and guide, the two paramedics (one tramping around in spike heels) simply got back in their van and drove off. A police car came, and our driver left with them. The rest of us -- some bloodied and not walkingwell at all, one with what turned out to be a broken jaw -- were stranded on a nettle-covered side of the road. We kept awaiting the help we presumed had been summoned for us.


But there we would stay for two hours. We rejected the suggestion that we split up into groups of two and hitchhike back to Moscow. Finally, a sympathetic police officer, who may not have wanted a couple of dozen injured, distressed foreign women on his hands, came up with a solution. He hailed a public intercity bus and persuaded the driver to take us over the Moscow city line to a metro stop.


At that point, even another bus seemed to be shelter in a storm. So, from the Yuzhnaya metro station I made my way home, trying to ignore the passengers staring at my blood-stained pants and trying not to cry until I was safe inside my apartment.


So perhaps you think my bus-phobia is quite reasonable, perhaps not. All I can say is that many fears make no sense. So why did Galen get to ride the bus in St. Petersburg? My fear is less virulent out of Moscow, for one thing. For another, I know that from now on, I will be required to suppress my fears again and again in the service of his growth. But for now, Galen, we're still not taking the bus in Moscow.