The Saga of the Sneaker

The Saga of the Sneaker

Stalin described the metro as the 'Palaces of the People.' Marble sculptures, bronze statues and crystal chandeliers rewarded the workers for their toil. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine this would be the scene of my greatest drama on our trip thus far. Our guide gave clear instructions as to how to manage the metro, including standing to the right on the fast moving escalators descending into the bowels of the earth. "There's no place for politeness in the metro," she repeated, "otherwise you'll get left behind."

The system operates like clockwork. Each train arrives at the platform every sixty seconds. Doors open for a brief set time and close without whistle or warning.

I took our guide's words seriously. I proudly negotiated the first two boardings and exits with great skill. My third boarding met with disaster.

Train arrives - doors open - surge forward. My big feet sometimes get me into trouble, especially when I attempt to dance with Chris. This was a similar embarrassing occasion but far worse. My right shoe caught the heel of the sneaker of a group-member in front of me as she boarded. The sneaker slipped from her foot and fell into the 10cm gap between the carriage and the platform. For two tantalising seconds it remained caught, then plunged into the dark abyss. The owner let out a frantic cry and her husband, an exclamation I won’t repeat.

Doors close, train moves, chaos erupts. My instant offer to buy a replacement pair of sneakers is interrupted by “You’ll get it on travel insurance.” My distressed fellow traveller is offered a seat. The nightmare of wandering the streets of Moscow with a bare foot in pouring rain becomes a reality. Someone produces a plastic bag and her foot is wrapped. Audible gasps of empathy came from sympathetic group members when we disembark and assemble on the next platform. After a short council of war, our Russian guide returned to see if retrieval was possible.

As the trains passed by without sign of our guide, my guilt increased. I felt like a heel - no pun intended. The likelihood of the sneaker being mangled into pieces debated.

Finally, our guide returned with an intact sneaker held high. A spontaneous cheer erupted from our group, turning the heads of hundreds of commuters and celebrations broke out. Our guide reported “A station attendant recovered the elusive footwear with a pair of forceps.” My insistence of a complimentary copy of ‘Out of Latvia’ repaired my relationship with the victim and I understand the incident is now archived in Insight Tour’s infamous moments on the metro.

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© 2017 by David Kerr