One thing that I like about living in the Middle East is the profound respect that men have for women, especially mothers. I've had a few bad experiences with Arab men, but only a few. Mostly I've found them to be quite courteous.
Perhaps that's because I've never been single in the Middle East and have been able to avoid confrontations and marriage proposals by pointing to my ring and announcing that I'm already taken. Perhaps it's because I usually go out with Rachel and blame her for all the extra whistles and attention we get on the street.
I can deal with looks, and whistles, and cat calls, and kissy noises. None of that really bothers me because I've never really been harassed. They call out their silly little names, "Hello, beautiful!" and then leave me alone. Really, who can complain about being called beautiful and then being left alone.
Maybe I'm just a good scowler, but I've rarely actually been pursued. Women are, gratefully, an untouchable commodity here. I did not find that to be the case in Russia.
Russia is much more hands-on, in general. Take the metro, for example. It gets crowded here in Cairo, but I rarely bump shoulders with anyone. In Moscow there are times when you actually can lift your feet off the ground and remain standing. The busses in Russia also seem to be more crowded than they are here, although I've never ridden a bus here more people seem to be sitting than standing. In Russia the reverse would probably be true.
Back in Voronezh, Staci and I were crammed onto a little mashrutka--one of those sardine-can busses--on our way to the missionaries' apartment so that Staci could give Elder Romney a haircut. I'm not sure why he wanted a haircut because, from what I can remember, he wasn't exactly in desperate need of one. He could have used implants before he could have used a haircut.
But we were going to give him a haircut anyway because we liked to hang out in the missionaries' apartment.
That might sound scandalous, but it's not. Elder Romney lived with Sister Romney and they were one of the sweetest couple missionaries ever.
The bus was already crowded when it pulled up and we fought our way through the crowd to get on, leaving several tens of people to wait for the next bus. We had an appointment to keep, afterall, and it was towards the end of my Russia experience and I was getting really good at pushing.
At each stop the bus seemed to get fuller and fuller. We were all smashed up against the windows and each other. The door could only close if we all stepped in unison to one side and allowed it to slide shut before exhaling and shuffling around, completely rendering the door useless once more. We rearranged ourselves at each stop, inching our way closer to the door as our stop arrived, but moving away from it to let more people on.
It's kind of like fighting the tide at the ocean. You just can't win.
Just before our stop, a man ended up very close to me, which isn't exactly uncommon. He was unnecessarily drunk, which also isn't exactly uncommon. And he touched me, which was unavoidable given our present poximity. How he touched, though, was a little innappropriate.
He put his arm around my shoulder.
I glared at him and pushed his hand off.
He slid it down my back and then goosed me.
Staci and I both glared at him this time and I muttered something that I hoped sounded threatening.
Apparently it didn't sound threatening enough because he followed us off the bus and stood at the bus stop with us. We were supposed to be waiting for Elder Romney to pick us up. I'm not sure what the Gooser thought he was supposed to be doing.
Staci and I moved to stand behind the bus stop to give us some physical separation from the Gooser. This was one of the fancier, more official bus stops in Voronezh and actually had a little roof and some thin sheet metal walls, standing a few inches off the ground (for an idea of what I'm talking about, see here). Thin metal isn't much of a physical barrier, but at least it offered some isolation. Isolation from the wind howling off the river, and isolation from creepy Russian men.
So, there we were, waiting for Elder Romney to come for us, hoping that he would be on time and trying to figure out if either of us remembered how to get to his apartment building so that we could get away from the Gooser, who apparently was going no where.
And that's when it happened.
We heard a hissing sound and looked around to see what it was. It seemed to be coming from the ground. Yes, yes...right about where our feet were. We looked down in time to see a stream of urine hitting my boot, leaving a steaming puddle at my feet.
It was quite shocking. We stood there with our mouths agape, staring at my boot, for several minutes before either of us could speak.
"Did he just...?" I stammered.
"I think he did..." Staci answered.
The Gooser somehow managed to pee under the bus stop wall and directly onto my boot. How he managed to do this will forever remain a mystery. It had to have been carefully aimed because it was quite a tricky shot, really. I mean, how did he avoid hitting the bench?
He must have felt that peeing on me leveled the playing field--I'd shunned him and he peed on me, so we're even, right?--because after he was finished he snickered and swaggered drunkenly down the street.
Elder Romney came for us soon after the drunken, nonparuretic Gooser had disappeared from sight.
Staci cut his hair while I chatted with Sister Romney and then we went home. Only this time we faced the cold and walked. We weren't ready to deal with any more Russian men at the moment. Besides, my boot barely had time to dry off.