Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Lines in Ukraine

At the start of the Second World War, the Germans rolled over the unprepared Red Army, largely because Stalin foolishly ignored news of a troop build-up on his border (and also killed so many of his generals during the Great Purge). Within weeks, Wehrmacht troops were in sight of Moscow, and Soviet officials were ordering whole factories dismantled and transported to the safety of the Urals.
Today, those early tactical mistakes made by the Red Army will not be repeated by any member of the general Ukrainian population, who apparently have learned from the mistakes of their forebears. In short, Ukrainians are not British when it comes to standing in line. Today, in Kherson, an example. I finally find an Internet connection in the state-run Ukretelecom office, near yet another Freedom Square (a popular name after the dissolution of the USSR, when so many cities and states went shopping for a new name after turning in their "Revolution's" and "Dzherzinsky's"). One person is in front of me, the clerk before that person is staring at a computer screen. Behind us, one free computer out of ten. A woman I had seen waiting on a sofa outside comes storming. She's all hips and heels and soon digging in her purse behind me. I fear a repeat of 1941. "Mozhno internet?" I said. I'd been waiting silently for maybe ten seconds, waiting to be acknowledged by the clerk, not necessarily with a smile, but at least a can-i-help-you frown. The girl behind me responds with a question when I show interest in the Internet, then says she too want the computer and extends the clerk her money. She's quicker on the draw than me. She gets the service, coming in to the desk not from the back of the line but the side. I'm not acknowledged before I leave in a huff. I'm only outflanked, outnumbered, and outsmarted.
More later.