Yesterday I had a dentist appointment in Yerevan. The day started normal enough, woke up at 8 in the morning so that I could leave by 9:10 and get to the marshutka by about 9 20, in order to have one of the only two acceptable seats I find on the marshutka; the window seats on the passenger side. If I don’t have one of these seats, the 2 hour drive to Yerevan is pretty much unbearable. It means I will have to sit smashed by a stranger who will either completely ignore me, if I am lucky, or play 20 questions with me. Most of the time I can get my favorite seat because I don’t mind sitting around waiting for the bus to leave, but on the occasions that I haven’t gotten my seat, I am unavoidable forced to sit next to some old man who thinks it’s funny that I am on the bus and decides to either talk my ear off, or talk about me to all the other passengers. So really this seat is essential to my traveling comfort; not that one can be all too comfortable driving in a van made for about 9 people, occupied by 18.
I am fortunate that I was able to get my favorite seat this time, as the marshutka filled up very early and yet even as the bus was full to the brim I wasn’t even shocked when the driver pulled over for an old man to get on board. At this time we had 19 people smashed together already. Even I had someone in a stool next to my lone seat. The old man took a stool from under my chair and put it practically on my feet. He didn’t have enough room to face forward and had to ride staring at the van door. It was uncomfortable to say the least. But even this has become normal to me and I managed to sleep most of the two hour drive.
At about the half way point I really had to use the restroom, but I have never felt comfortable asking a driver to pull over for this, as I have never seen an Armenian do it. I sat; legs crossed hoping for some kind of miracle. God was in the mood to answer my prayers because the driver pulled over at a common rest stop and told us not to move he would only be 2 seconds. I saw my opportunity and made a run for it. I didn’t want to explain to anyone, as I only really know the little kid word for going pee and I already feel very silly when I speak Armenian. As I opened the door someone told me I shouldn’t leave. I just smiled and ran to the store. After about three minutes I was back and the whole marshutka was waiting for me. I squeezed back into my seat, noticing that the guy next to me took my short respite as an opportunity to spill over into my seat but at least they didn’t leave me!!
After having my teeth cleaned and checked for cavities; I had one, and having my eye glass prescription renewed, It was about 5pm, meaning I had about 30 minutes to make it to the bus station to catch my ride home. I sat outside the doctor’s office and did my best to flag down a cab, using my normal criteria that if it is not marked by a meter , I will not take it. However after about ten minutes of not being able to stop one, I had to settle for whoever would pull over. A black cab with a taxi sign on its roof but no number printed on the side finally stopped. I told him to take me to the bus station. He asked me if I was Russian and I said no. He told me I am very pretty like a Russian girl, the one sentence that really puts fear into me in this country. I didn’t respond. He asked me if he had offended me and I told him no, but I am not Russian I am an English teacher. Clearly stating that I was a professional and not there for any funny business… He asked me if I was Armenian and I said no. He asked if I lived with family and I told him my family was in the US. He asked me when I came to Armenia, if I liked it, how much money I make, how old I am. I tried to be as detached and cold as possible, giving him no reason to think I had any interest. He asked me if he could stop and get me a juice, I told him no. And then I did something I have never done here, I lied and told him I am married. He looked at me a long time in the mirror as if he didn’t believe me. He asked me if my husband was Armenian and I said yes. He asked me his name, his age, his profession, and how we met, and I answered all flawlessly. I thought I sounded pretty honest and convincing, without even the smallest hesitation. Then he asked me if I had children, and I stumbled. I paused and said no. He asked me when I got married and I said two years ago, and just by that he knew I was lying. Armenians usually have children right after they get married, though sometimes they do wait, but being 28, I am old and there was no way he was going to believe I was married and still didn’t have children. He immediately went back to flirting with me. He missed the turn in for the bus station. I told him he was wrong, and he said oh yes, I missed it I will turn around, but to me he took the longest possible way to get back to the turn. I was getting pretty nervous as he kept asking me questions and telling me how beautiful I was. I demanded that he let me out of the cab. He told me no. I told him I would call the police. He told me I misunderstood and sped up to let me out at the bus station. But even as I was getting out of his cab, my marshutka about to pull away, he asked me for my phone number!!! I couldn’t believe it!!! What nerve the guy had.
Unfortunately for me this meant my favorite seat on the marshutka was occupied. The money collector told me I’d have to sit up front with the driver. The men kind of laughed a little and I immediately put my head phones on to drowned them out, but one of my ear phones is blown out, which made it very difficult to not hear them talking about me. I don’t know why I don’t ever just tell people that I understand them and they should shut up, I guess it’s just easier for me to pretend that I don’t. No matter, after 15 minutes I was sound asleep anyways, waking up only as we were 20 minutes outside of my town, by my own little snore… Could anything be more embarrassing?? Well yes it can, my head was practically on the other passenger’s shoulder… The passenger asked if I was sick, I had been feeling sick but didn’t know why he would ask me until I reached up to touch my head, I clearly had a fever and my face was flushed and sweating!!! Ugh, just your average Peace Corps transportation story!!!