(ONE OF THOSE SLICE-OF-LIFE POSTS)    On the subway, I was carefully blocking the seat next to me with my bag. Eventually a blond mass gets on, carrying an apparent ThinkPad whose lid was slightly ajar. She doesn’t know where to sit. I moved my bag and the blond mass sat down, immediately texting out a message on her shoephone, surely for later transmission.

I noticed her keyboard. Then I looked really closely, but there weren’t enough keys I could see on what turned out to be an HP laptop.

Is that русский or українский? Русский, she said, looking at me for a second. A total Russian-spy-novel bombshell. (But not the brakeman of the Russian bobsleigh team.)

Where do you get a Russian keyboard in Canada? I asked. Oh, I brought it from— Russia? Mm. Ah. I sat there for a second.

Have you heard of Gary Shteyngart? The Russian author? Who? Gary Shteyngart. Russian-American author. The name sounds French, she said. [And how the hell do you write it? Штейнгарт? Apparently, but that means it’s a “Young Frankensteen” scenario.] Well, he’s Jewish. Actually— and here I pulled something out of my bag. I opened up my new hardcover book and pointed to the author’s name and the title, Absurdistan, whose bizarre font she had to sit there and decode.

“Absurd” means “ridiculous” or— I know what it means “absurd,” she said. What is it about? It’s about a Russian émigré to Brooklyn. A 320-pound Russian émigré to Brooklyn. I’m only on page 10. It’s comedic. When you finish, you can tell me what it is, she said.

I sat there for a moment while she went back to texting and I thought oh, my God, she thinks I’m trying to pick her up! (Or, as heterosexualists call it, “hitting on” her, which term would apply to absolutely anything that could be interpreted as interest, from a simple glance to unfastening her bra.) Oh!myGaaawd.

I had only seconds to spare before getting off the train. I eventually remembered what to say: Da zvidanya! Which she returned with a smile, pronouncing it differently, i.e., correctly.

I suppose I could have taken a picture. But that’d be creepy.

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2007.03.22 16:55. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:

(Values you enter are stored and may be published)



First of all, I quit. If you must proceed:

Copyright © 2004–2023