Yekaterinburg railway station.
Waiting for a train. That will be more than three hours late. Something malevolent is trying to explode its way out of my guts. It’s either a space monster, à la Alien, or (more likely) the evilly sulphurous mineral water I drank this afternoon while observing the Travellers’ Dictum of sticking to bottled water in Funny Foreign Parts. Whatever the cause I need a toilet – like NOW! – but the security guard WILL NOT LET ME PAST HIS DESK SO I CAN GET TO ONE!!!
Why did I insist that K go home as I would be “fine” on my own? He didn’t want to leave me but I didn’t see the point of making him hang around, especially as he’s due to leave Yekaterinburg himself in just a few hours, on some travel industry junket (to Egypt, of all places).
As I pointed out to K, the waiting room is warm, safe and comfortable; I had something to eat, something to drink, and a selection of books to keep me entertained if I got bored of people-watching. Heck, the waiting room even has its own security guard! Besides, I told K, the journey is as much part of the travel experience as the destination.
Unfortunately, about half-an-hour after I made K leave, this particular travel experience manifested itself as excruciating stomach cramps and colicky pains and a slushy gurgling in my guts. Knees buckling with pain I carried my luggage towards the ladies’ toilets and pushed the door. It was locked.
I flicked through my phrase-book then hobbled towards the security guard at his desk. “Tualetti!” I gurned, wafting an arm feebly between the (locked) toilet door and the station concourse. He tapped his desk, and a piece of paper bearing the details of my delayed train, and said something in Russian. I fished out my phrase-book and plonked it in front of him. “Tualetti!” I whimpered, jabbing at the page, “Tualetti!!!” He gestured that he didn’t have his reading glasses.
Clearly, K’s little chat with the guard before he left hadn’t been a whinge about the unreliability of Russian trains, but a threat about what he would do to the guard if he let me out of his sight and something bad happened to me before I was safely on the train. Great. There are other people around, but do I really want to risk pouncing on some stranger on a Russian railway station in the middle of the night and babbling on about toilets? Er, no.
So I am sitting here carefully copying (what I hope will look like) the Cyrillic word for “toilet” in massive letters in my notebook, so thick and black they could probably be read from Moscow; if the situation gets much worse, I will try slapping that in front of him, in the hope that he can read it then. Otherwise I may be reduced to finding a waste bin and a quiet corner…
Post script/tip for other travellers: If you ever need to take your mind off even the worst situation, making countless rubbish attempts at copying a strange script works like a dream.