It was November 2, 2006. I got to my office even earlier than usual that day, because Stream was down again and I wanted to follow the slow-moving action as more and more states turned blue. Unusually, Natasha came in only 20 minutes late that day.
She spun twice and did a pirouette as she entered the room. "Good morning, Nancy! How are things?"
I decided to attempt to engage Natasha in a conversation. "Very interesting. We've got elections today."
"What for? For president?"
"No, for Congress."
"Congress? What's that?"
"Hm. I wonder if we have elections today, too..."
"No, you don't."
"Well isn't that strange!" she said, confused but really not even bothering to feign interest. She reached for the telephone to call her mother. "Hi mamochka! Hiiyeeeeeee...."
Russians actually have a very strong understanding about voting rights, especially in the virtual world of Russian office politics. What's important to understand is that as a foreigner with no Russian soul you have no voting rights in the Russian office. No soul, no vote. You are mostly there for show. ("Look, we have three foreigners in our office! And I have already dated two!") Your opinions are met with condescending sniggers, your bright ideas with eyebrows raised in infinite pity, your flashy accomplishments with deep-seated loathing, snarling envy and stink-eye shot at you from across the hallway.
You may suggest, you may protest, you may zamechat, you may pridumivat, but to no avail, for you, expat, are the Foreigner, and you have no say in any matter. Silly expat, Trix are for natives!
I can hear you protesting, dear readers and Russian apologists: "You thankless bitch! Have you no respect for your adopted country? You are a GUEST here!"
Allow me to present some all-too-common examples: (1) the lunch vote; (2) the post-haste re-delegation of authorities (aka "hide the foreigner") and (3) we know best.
Number one: the lunch vote.
On occasion, some wise guy will get the brilliant idea that "we" should order lunch in. It will give us the chance to spend some quality time chayepitting together, to "bond" as it were.
The range of choices is mind-boggling: pizza or sushi. Whatever I vote for is automatically turned down. After deciding whether it'll be pizza or sushi, Kolya and Natasha engage in a 20-minute discussion about which restaurants deliver, and which are the best.
"Well we can't order from Magic Pizza, you remember what happened last time? We waited for hours, and when they finally got here it was cold," Kolya says.
"I happen to like Mischa Pischa. We ordered there once and it was to die for! The black caviar and mayo pizza was exquisite." Natasha informs us all.
"Has anyone ever ordered from Fanny Pizza?"
I had. Should I raise my hand? "Yeah, I have," I try. "It was mushy, and not cooked all the way through."
No one was listening! Seriously, did I just imagine that someone asked for my opinion?
"OK, Nancy, we've decided where we're ordering from." Kolya announced. When did this happen? "I've asked Yulia to send everyone the link. Let's all reconvene here in ten minutes to discuss toppings."
I swiveled my chair back to my computer screen. There was already an email from Yulia in my inbox. I opened the email. The link was for Fanny Pizza.
Oh joy! Very soon I'll be feasting on the so-called "full tummy pizza" with meatballs, bacon, and ham on Tartar sauce. The tartar sauce, by the way, is described as "mayonnaise with pickles." Nyam!