Thursday, September 25, 2008

How to Buy an Alarm Clock in Moscow

I bought an alarm clock a little while ago. I was able to function through the first week or so of my time in Moscow without one, by virtue of the fact that my body clock was still under the impression that 5am is a perfectly reasonable hour to wake up. I didn't want to count on that lasting, which made an alarm clock somewhat more than necessary.

It was an odd shopping experience. Many of the malls and department stores in Moscow would be pretty familiar to any New Zealander; the goods are mostly western, the food courts are unappealing, and I'm surrounded by people whose opinion differs from mine with regards to how well they are dressed.

Less typical of New Zealand are the stores one encounters in between leaving the subway station and surfacing in the street above. After getting off the metro, there are bizarre networks of underground tunnels that one must navigate before accessing fresh air, and all along the sides of these tunnels are small retail stalls. These stalls are glass-walled, completely impenetrable to the public, and, between them, represent almost a full range of the merchandise one could buy in a mall. Unlike a mall, though, one does not actually enter the shop. Instead, the entire range of merchandise is displayed pressed up against the walls of the stalls, and one communicates with the stall owner by way of a hole in the glass wall. Quite frankly, the whole experience makes me feel a little bit like Clarice Starling.

I spent about half an hour strolling through the Okhotniu Ryad mall -- an oddly Japanese-feeling building -- without coming across a single electronics store. Although now I know exactly where to go the next time I want to buy clothes, as well as where not to go if I want to buy anything other that that.

Disappointed, my body clock slowly adapting, and still no alarm clock, I began to head back to the Metro station. On my way I came across a clock stall. That's right: a tiny retail store which sold nothing but time-keeping devices and paraphernalia. Seizing the opportunity, I wandered up to the window, and tried to buy an alarm clock.

I could have started the conversation with something like:
"Yizvinete. Mozhno, vi govoryetye po Angliskiu? Proshu proshenia, ya ne mogu govoret' po ruskiu." (Excuse me. Is it possible for you to speak English? Sorry, I can't speak Russian.)

However, I find that my message is made far more clearly if I just look confused, and, using a crap Russian accent, say:

"Nyet." Was the reply.

"Erm..." I thought. "Beep Beep Beep Beep!?"

I wonder if L. L. Zamenhof would have though of that. It's a fantastic alarm clock, by the way, and it only cost me 380 Rubles.


Mel said...

Haha I love this story. Ollie, you're a star. Beep beep beep beep!

Anonymous said...

Honestly, if this were a published account of traveling to Moscow, I would buy it.

This was very enjoyable to read.

Clare said...

A most charming adventure!