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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Leaving Metro Rudeness Behind

Sharp pain tore through my right shoulder, but sheer shock kept me from crying out. I was standing in the cavernous Arbatskaya metro during rush hour, waiting for an after-work crowd to exodus the train car. In the jostling for position outside the sliding door, I had unwittingly become a roadblock for a young man with an amber beer bottle clutched in one hand.

He had shoved me aside roughly and disappeared without even an "excuse me" in the throngs of vendors hauling cardboard boxes, babushkas pulling bags on rickety carts and other young men carrying half-empty bottles of beer.

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I soon wrote off the encounter, which happened shortly after I first arrived as a student to Moscow. It wasn't long before I learned that the shove had been my introduction to metro rudeness.

One evening, in unusually good spirits, I for the first and last time cheerfully wished the gray-haired guardian at the metro gate a good evening as I flashed my monthly pass.

"Young man, came back here!" she shrieked. She suspiciously scrutinized the pass, turning it over and holding it up to the light. I wondered whether I should have bought tokens. The rotund gatekeeper then gave me a furious tongue-lashing -- my Russian was too poor to make out the reason -- and reluctantly let me go.

Shortly afterward, I got pushed again -- twice -- and angrily resolved that it was better to give than to receive.

Thus began a few months of gleefully pushing aside the door-blockers, the slow walkers and the sign-readers puzzling over which metro underpass to take. For good measure, I began barging up and down the escalators, sternly nudging passengers who forgot they had to stand to the right.

One day I came blazing down the escalator, sending left-standers scattering, and made a beeline for the waiting train. A stout slow walker was blocking my path to the platform, and I gave him an indifferent push, hopping onto the wagon as the doors slammed shut. I glanced out the window and sucked in my breath. The slow walker was blind. My days of metro rudeness were over.

But the game goes on.

Easy targets are the beggars -- ragged children, the worried mother with a baby clutched to her bosom and the one-legged veteran -- who collect coins from kind-hearted pensioners.

A friend told me recently about seeing a stereotypical New Russian, complete with a thick gold chain and Italian shoes, refuse to let a wheelchair-bound veteran squeeze past as he collected change in a metro car.

The veteran tugged on his suit jacket, but the New Russian unflinchingly remained glued to the spot. Fellow passengers watched the veteran's dilemma with interest.

Finally, a young man jumped out of his seat and socked the New Russian in the face. The man crumbled to the floor, blood oozing from his nose. The savior helped the grateful veteran wheel around the body, explaining, "I'm also a veteran."

Only two stations later did the passengers begin to worry about the New Russian, still lying immobile on the floor. One of them called for help, and the police dragged him out.

A friend from New Zealand had his nose broken in the metro last year when he refused to give a teenager a few rubles.

I've found a way to avoid metro rudeness -- and the surly gatekeepers, door-blockers, slow walkers, sign-readers and left-standers. I take the bus.

Andrew McChesney is deputy editor of The Moscow Times.