The gray dreariness in this Russian prison of a city is enough to make a Mormon drink. Which, is apparently what one does in this place, according to Betty Lou.
“Drink and stay drunk is the Russian way, until the required 10 hours prior to flight tomorrow. It’s the only way to block it out,” she stated emphatically.
I’ll drink to that. In fact, I’ll drink to anything Betty Lou proposes because so far, she’s been dead on. Just before landing in the Russian city of Magadan, she told me, “Put your tongue on the roof of your mouth.”
I shot her a WTF?! look, damn near protocol among flight attendants. She continued,
“You’ll bite your tongue otherwise. Their runway is more like a bumpy road in Tijuana.”
She was right. I was pretty damn sure we’d missed the runway altogether.
I was still shot up on adrenaline when Gabe made his way down the aisle toward me. He stopped just before the narrow doorway to the aft stairs.
In the galley we’d been separated by a strange sense of protocol.
Saying good-bye has a way of bridging that.
I looked up into those olive eyes flecked with gold and filled with secrets and it wouldn’t have mattered if I’d lost my tongue on landing, I couldn’t form the words.
Then his lips brushed mine and everything around me ceased to exist.
“I will see you soon,” he said. And then he was gone.
“What the hell was that?” Betty Lou stood behind me, luggage slung together, waiting.
Just behind her, Abi and the pilots.
Which meant I’d been standing there staring after him far too long.
“Russian boyfriend of yours?” This from Captain Dave. He did not look pleased.
Shit. Down on all fours I went. Not to placate the Captain (please) but to collect the contents of my purse I’d just managed to dump, showering a clatter of worldly goods all over the floor.
“Um, not exactly,” I said and disappeared inside the closet for runaway lipstick and change.
Rockin’ and Rollin’ the Russian way
Armed with a fresh coat of lipstick and plenty of change, we’d set out to get sloshed in Magadan and we didn’t have to go far. Street vendors had plenty to offer.
The Captain made it clear the Russian experience was his treat and that in itself was a treat —
Pilots are notoriously cheap and most will admit it. It takes so long to pay their dues, by the time they start making good money it’s already wired into their operating system.
If you want to know where all the meal deals are on a layover, ask a pilot.
They’re like bloodhounds for cheap eats.
Russia was no different. Captain Dave bought us each a 16-oz liter of Stoli Vodka for
.85 cents US. The containers were similar to glass coke bottles with either a bottle cap or waxy peel-off tops.
In other words, once the top was off it wasn’t meant to be put back on.
We were totally cool with that.
There were a few stores with nothing of interest. Instead, we were the items of interest:
The pilots were somewhat low-key (as they tend to be) but even so Captain Dave was in his leather flight jacket and our FO Steve had deep baby blues with a black Columbia Gear down jacket. And then there’s us:
Here I am in a red trench with long blond hair, Betty Lou’s a deep auburn redhead with porcelain skin and then there’s Abi, a stunning African American with deep red lipstick.
We stuck out like easter eggs on the sidewalk in that dreary place.
I’m not sure who noticed first that we’d drawn something of a crowd following but it should’ve been expected.
We had ventured into a small store. It had the strangest assortment of items that bordered on fascinating in a dreadful sort of way, like wooden clothes pins strewn about an old vase next to a hand mixer with no beaters and some lipstick.
The whole place was like a clearance shelf with a haphazard assortment of items. It didn’t matter that there was nothing of interest, whatever we picked up or looked at our followers would be drawn toward. Oh — is there something valuable here?
This was about the time I began to understand what Betty Lou meant by staying drunk to deal with it all.
From then on, things got really weird.