Blog - Apathy

Added on Sunday, 2012-04-08 21:37 CEST in category Moscow
In general, I like my life here in Moscow. But as any place, Moscow has its share of problems, with which I also have to deal. I don't want to talk about corruption, poverty or human rights, which to be honest don't touch me all that much, but instead I want to talk about apathy. To put it bluntly, I have never seen a population more apathetic than the Muscovites. Have I got your attention? Good :)

Let me sketch an evening out. Leaving your apartment, you don't greet your neighbor, because you don't know him, and you don't care. You get into the elevator, which rattles and shakes, because it hasn't been checked in ages, and hope you make it all the way down without getting stuck. To enter the underground garage, you have to go outside first, even though the garage is situated directly underneath the elevator shaft. You get into your car, and drive to the main road very slowly, evading all the potholes and broken up asphalt.

Once on the main road, expect to get cut off at least a few times, sometimes having to slam the brakes. If the other car in question is an expensive one, you better take it and stay away, unless you want to have something broken. At the traffic light, it's not unusual for drivers having to go left and waiting for their turn, to block the lanes going straight or right, or to get stuck on the middle of an intersection, creating a gridlock.

Suddenly you remember you still had to pick up your suit from the dry cleaner's. You check their site on your phone, and see they're open for another half an hour. Nice :) But when you get there, they're already closed. Turns out they hadn't updated their site in years, even after their opening hours had changed. Empty-handed you drive to the restaurant. Fortunately, parking is easy, because nobody cares where you put it, as long as you're not blocking anyone else. You also don't pay, because there are no meters or parking attendants.

Once there, you order some drinks, a starter, and a main course. Some time later you're brought the main course, but no drinks yet. When they do arrive, you may already've been done eating. Then the starter arrives. Your wife's, anyway, not yours, because they forgot about it. After you've paid, you do not place your chair back under the table, because you don't care, leaving it very much in the way. You also don't close the door behind you, even though it's -20°C outside.

You decide to go see a movie, and go stand in line with a hundred or so other people, waiting in line for the two open cash registers (out of four). 40 minutes later it's your turn, but you're already too late, so you get tickets for a later showing in two hours. Time for a trip to the supermarket!

While driving there, you noticed you missed a turn, and see the shortest route is now three kilometers longer. At the supermarket, you cannot find some of the items you're looking for, and have to ask several employees, because most simply don't (want to) know. You also have to constantly ask people to let you pass, because people have a tendency to leave their trolleys in the very middle of the aisle, effectively blocking everyone else's way.

Once you get back to the cinema, you take place, enjoy the trailers and movie, but notice that during the quiet scenes you hear dance music. Turns out that directly underneath the cinema there's a night club. With loud music. Way to ruin the quiet moments… But then again, those were already ruined by people, who instead of whispering, are plain out talking to each other.

On the way back there's not that much traffic anymore, so you can easily drive 80-90 km/h through the city center. You then see a police officer turning on his siren. That's OK, cause instead of writing you a ticket, he just uses the opportunity to cross a double solid line. Immediately afterwards, he'll turn the siren off again, because he doesn't need it anymore. No wonder other drivers are very reluctant to let emergency services past.

When you come back home around midnight, the builders at the building site right next to your house are still at work, welding, hammering and offloading materials. You call the police on them, for the fifth time, and threaten to get the chief inspector involved. Half an hour later it quiets down, and you can get some sleep. The next morning you are woken up by the same builders, going at it for yet another day…

Of course this hasn't been one of my actual evenings out, on any given day you may notice only one or two of these things, if at all, but every single part of it I have seen happen, several times. For me, and for some other foreigners I know in Moscow, this omnipresent apathy is one of the hardest things about living in Moscow.

I've talked to a few Muscovites about such behavior, and most tell me they don't really see the problem. Yes, this behavior is there, and they acknowledge that, but they, in response, also don't really care. It's like the two cancel each other out. And besides, they usually have bigger problems to worry about.

However, whereas they indeed care very, very little about anyone else, they do care a lot about their friends and family. And that I truly appreciate :)