The Story of One Passenger: How a Routine Ride Turns into a Small Adventure

I live at the Bratislavskaya metro station and just like thousands of other people, almost every morning I travel to the center of the city to spend my entire day there and head home from a different metro station in the evening. Of course, cramming yourself into the train is not the most interesting adventure (especially when you’ve just woken up). However, my thoughts during these daily metro rides are often anything but routine.

I love everything about the Moscow metro, and this love begins from the very first steps I became used to taking every day. I always wonder why those transparent doors are so heavy and how people manage to open them in a manner that requires you to put your arm out in front so as not to be hit in the nose. And at that same moment, the wind starts blowing in your face and you smell an odor that is impossible confuse –the smell of the ride to the center, the smell of the people rushing to work, the smell of trains and chilly tunnels.

When passing through a turnstile, I always turn back to the ticket window, thinking to myself: “Well done fellow, so glad that I’ve already put money onto my card.” It’s interesting that the way from the metro door to your final destination always sparks the same thoughts, coming in the same order.

Then I notice myself looking at the big red numbers that display the time, trying to understand if I am late to my classes – I always think that I’m late, but I always arrive on time. I know for sure where I need to stand so that I arrive exactly on the side from the train’s door that will open right in front of a beginning of the wall that has a transition to the different line right behind it. A tactic that took months to learn!

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As the light of the coming train slowly fills the tunnel, I think about two things: “I wonder if I will fit in this space between the rails.” and “I hope this is not a train going to Pechatniki!” And here it comes.

I always look into the eyes of the train driver as if I’m telling him: “That’s right I’ll have a ride on your train.” Once he stops, I start greedily looking for an empty seat (of course there are none of them at 8AM). Then comes the time of my favorite morning activity: the mental prayer for seating passengers to leave the train at the next station. It doesn’t really work that often, and then in between my mental prayers I start watching the people – clothes, poses, faces, phones, books… and play a game with myself called “What station is this person going to?” or “What event or meeting is this person going to?”

Sometimes people really leave at the next station (as if my prayers were answered) and if luck strikes and there are no other passengers more deserving of a seat, I take a seat and open a book and for 20 minutes everything around me stops existing.

The Flow of Time

Speaking of time, I never use the applications with metro schemes that show how long your ride will be. First of all, I love paper maps. I like to lead the way with my finger or sight through the colorful lines. Secondly, in most of the cases I know where to go – at least I know what line the necessary station is at. And thirdly, I think only three possible time routes exist: 10 minutes for the stations close to mine, half an hour to almost every other station and an hour to the stations on the opposite sides of the lines.

Of course the romantic people like me have their favorite places in the Moscow metro – stations, escalators, carriages, transitions… I personally admire Maykovskaya and the blue Arbatskaya station (I won’t make jokes about foreigners confusing the two Arbatskaya stations). I love Trubnaya, Tsvetnoy Bulvar… it can be a very long list. I think my favorite station is Sretenskiy Bulvar. It is extremely comfortable: it’s on my line, you can transfer to the orange or red line, there is my university, boulevards, a bunch of cafes, shops and it is often chosen as a place to meet.

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Life-Hack for Kitay-Gorod Transfer

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I really love Kitay-Gorod – once I learned how to determine which carriage I need to get in and now I feel like a genius. I will share it with you, it’s easy: as you know the transition there is a cross-platform, but very logical. If you look at the map of Moscow, the Kitay-Gorod platform has two exits – north (which lead to Maroseyka Street and Ilyinka Street, to the side of Lubyanskaya Square) and south (leading to Varvarka Street and Solyanka Street).

Accordingly, the platforms are parallel between these two exits and have logical names – the Western Hall and Eastern Hall. And if you remember the next stations on both of the lines, then you’ll realize where the train is going: geographically Kuznetskiy Most and Turgenevskaya are more north than Kitay-Gorod (which means the train goes from bottom to top on the orange and purple lines).

This way, if you go from the top of the purple or orange lines then the last carriage will be near the exit to Maroseyka and Ilyinka and the first one near the exit to Varvarka and Solyanka. If you go from the bottom of those lines then the first carriage will be near the exit to Maroseyka and the last near an exit to Solyanka. So one platform has the trains going up (eastern) and the other has the trains going down (western).

By the way, I always laugh when I stay near the door on the wrong side of a carriage, even though the phrase “Kitay-Gorod, the platform is to the right” has been stuck in my head so hard that it sounds to me like the name of the station.

That Awkward Moment

There are many occasions like this in the metro: for example you have missed your stop and have to cross the platform with a poker face, or have ran into the carriage cause you were thinking the train was about to leave, but it is stays for another half-a-minute. Or you’ve decided to walk up an escalator but got tired and have to stand in the middle of it on the left side, heavily breathing near the passenger who’s imperturbably going upstairs.

People in the metro are usually so busy with their own business and thoughts that they don’t care about such failures, especially during rush hour when everyone wants to get out of underground as soon as possible. And you can see happiness in their eyes when an empty train arrives on the circle line! And the pain in their eyes when it passes by without taking people on board…

For sure, you enjoy a metro ride much more if it’s not rush hour – empty trains, no lines on the escalators… You can sit in the last seat, put your head on a handle and listen to music, rarely opening your eyes to look at a station’s wall. This is a skill that requires big experience – to determine what station it is by its wall. You might think: why would you need this if you can read the name of a station or just take out your headphones and listen to it! Ha, that’s not interesting. These little things form a very different attitude toward the metro: it stops being a way of teleportation and starts being a whole world, an exciting adventure filled with moments that just in half-an-hour can turn your grey morning in rush hour into a magical beginning of the day. You just need to look at it from a different angle!

Beware, the doors are closing. And they’ll open wherever you want!

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