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Russia May 2, 2008
 
One Day In The Life of Alina (or 24 Hours in a Kiosk)
By Jake Rudnitsky Browse author Email
 
Alina smiling at the thought of a tekhnicheskii pereriv.
 

20:53 - Tekhnicheskii pereriv. I had already been in Alina's kiosk for about eight hours when I finally got to use the infamous "tekhnicheskii pereriv - 15 min" sign. Anyone who's spent any time in Russia has had ample time to curse these "technical breaks" as a prime example of how Russia just doesn't get customer service. Salesgirls use the gross misnomer to smoke, eat crudely sliced processed meat or simply not do anything at all. In a still more ludicrous application of tekh. pererivs, many "24-hour" stores are closed from 4 to 6. There is nothing technical about it.

Alina generally only uses hers when she needs to take a shit during her shift. A small green unenclosed bucket kept in the corner is good enough for peeing, but there's just no place in the 6' by 10' box to shit. So she hangs the tekh. pereriv sign, locks up, braces against the cold, and runs to a near-by outhouse.

But this was a special occasion. A regular customer had just run up and asked for a 2l bottle of fortified Zhigulovskoe beer on credit. While Alina was contemplating whether he was good for the 50R, he started telling us about a murder that had just happened. I didn't believe him, so he offered to show me the body. I bought him the beer, we hung up the tekh. pereriv sign, and off we went. Alina brought an extremely dull kitchen knife for self-defense.

During the walk, Sasha, the customer, noticed a city bus lumbering up the hill and, in a shocked tone asked, "No way... do buses still run at this hour?"

"That's the last one," Alina replied.

"Are we about to see a guy with an axe in his head or not?" I thought.

Two minutes later, in front of a dive called Vostochnii Aromat, we were looking at the body. Well, not exactly. The body had obviously been moved to its current position, where it lay hidden under a crudely arranged and perversely colorful pile of particleboard. Sasha went inside and his arrival inspired a long torrent of Russian mat from a man with a heavy Caucasian accent. From what I could hear, the man was angry with Sasha for bringing us there. Alina got scared and went back to the kiosk. So it was just the dead dude and me, with Sasha's beer in my hands and an angry, perhaps grieving Caucasian inside.

The facts about the murder are somewhat hazy. The dead man was a Caucasian and had been hacked to death by an axe-wielding Russian. Apparently, a few hours before we got there, the Caucasian had been talking shit to the Russian about how much more successful Caucasians are. The Russian, who was a former guard at Vostochnii Aromat, decided to defend the honor of his motherland and, whack, took the Caucasian out with a powerful blow to the head. I imagine plenty of drinking was involved. Indeed, judging by the noise coming from the cafe, drinking was still involved.

Vasya demonstrates proper sales techniques for the kiosk's many fine dining options.

By the time I got there, the militsia had already been to the crime scene, made the makeshift tomb, arrested the Russian and left. Without taking the body. I'd never seen a real, live murder victim before, but the situation seemed to call for a little discretion. I have rarely felt so terrified in my life; Tynda is an ultra-violent city and I imagine they don't check your passport before hacking you to death. The dead Caucasian and his shallow grave served as a reality check, and somebody inside was mighty angry.

At one point I even started back to the kiosk, before a sense of obligation forced me to return to the corpse. This kind of opportunity doesn't happen every day. Even in Tynda.


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