Syedyshev Oleg
Syedyshev Oleg

Humorous Essays Based on students' memories

"All have died
except for those who are alive, and those whom we remember"Confucius

Essay 158. Help-it’s a panic

So it was God’s will to bring all three of us, who studied in the same group at the institute, together in Kurgan region. How much happy we were, when we met at Kurgan regional hospital. We, together with Arkashka Bliakher hugged and squeezed Valia Timoshka, expressing our joy in every possible way. As we did not know, or maybe did not remember, that we were placed on jobs there long ago. When I received address of an apartment where I would have to live for four months, I was told that the room was for three people, and I was going to have two room-mates. So after some questions about various arrangements we were dismissed to get settled at our accommodation. I was walking to the address I’d been given to Proletarskaya Str., 18-6, but I noticed that Arkashka tagged after me. I explained to him that we would meet later, and that I was going to the apartment. Though Arkadiy, too, told me something like – go your way, as he was also walking to his apartment. To put it short, gradually we found out that we would dwell together at the address of Proletarskaya Str., 18-6. However Arkashka and I were tortured by the question about: who would be the third one? My Lord, what if that was Timoshka, who would share the accommodation with us? I protested and even stated that I would refuse from my specialization training, if Timoshka would not be moved out from our place. Arkasha quite seriously was placating me saying that it was not possible, as we were males, and she was a female anyway. I opposed him with a good reason, because I knew what kind of tricks Kurgan bureaucrats played to keep young doctors longer in the region. I told him a horror story, which took place in our village of Chashi. In the year of 1972 two institute graduates arrived to Chashi district hospital: Volodia, a pediatrician from Tomsk, and Marina a therapeutist from Novosibirsk. So local jokers from the district administration offered a three room apartment (!) for two of them, saying that there were not any other apartments at that time. Well, and what do you think happened? The jokers reached their goal – Marina got pregnant right away, and Volodia, as a gentleman, “had to” marry her. The wedding was on 7 November. At the wedding the head of the district executive committee announced that it was his idea. I was too fast to state that Volodia “had to” marry. In about ten years I met the couple on Novosibirsk academic campus; they lived happily in their marriage. I openly told Arkadiy that he was a happy man, because he was already married, and what choices I had as a single man. I sacredly believed in the truth of Zhvanetskiy’s (Mikhail Zhvanetskiy is a famous satirist, known by his catch phrases) words, that when socializing with a woman one awkward move, and you were already the father! I did not want to follow the path of Volodia and marry, like a gentleman, after an awkward move. Arkasha laughed heartily at me, as there was always a possibility of divorce. However even in that situation I believed the phrase, though not Zhvanetskiy’s one, but of Kisa Vorobianinov (a character of a satirical novel “The Twelve Chairs” by Ilf and Petrov): “To get married is for the lifetime!”.

We did not notice how being deeply engaged in our discussion we reached the place we would share for the four months to come. To our surprise and joy there was already the Third there, and thanks God, the third was not Timokha, but on the contrary – that was a young guy. Volodia Tsargorodtsev – he introduced himself. In the morning we honestly told Timokha about our cordial sorrow and the big joy that it would not be her to share our room with, but Volodia, who we immediately introduced to her. Valia was not offended, she told Volodia that Arkashka and I did not become smarter after we’d received our diplomas, if only turned the opposite. Generally speaking, we resolved the domestic problem during our specialization training. I would like to tell you a couple of words more about Volodya Tsargorodtsev. He was a guy from Vladivostok. He graduated from the medical institute there. At that time the guy’s father was a big boss at “Dal-Ryba” (fish processing and trading industry). During socialism times that was something like “Gazprom” now. The guy had superb perspectives. However he did not want to live in the “outskirts of Russia” and decided to get his job placement after his graduation from the institute in Kurtamysh in Kurgan region, because that was not some “Far Eastern god-forsaken hole”, but a place closer to Europe. I am not going to describe to you his disappointment after getting acquainted with the “European” part of Russia. I will only say that he was disappointed. Nevertheless Volodia did not give up. He knew tons of Jewish jokes, which he could tell with special charm. Arkashka and I were amazed by his ability to start telling a joke at the very first request and stop only because of some objective reason.

Every day we walked to the regional hospital along the central square of Kurgan by the theatre. In those old days of total and general deficit there was a tradition that at theatre cafeterias there were always delicacies of some kind.

So Voldia really annoyed Arkadiy and me with his anguish for cervelat, so we decided to take him to the theatre on one of the weekends, when all three of us because of some reason stayed in Kurgan and did not go to our homes. You won’t believe that, but we even did not have lunch, as we assumed that we would have plenty of sandwiches with smoked sausage, caviar and cheese, and maybe if we got lucky treat ourselves to “Dvin” produced in Yerevan (Yerevan, capital of Armenia, famous for its cognac and brandy production). We pressed our pants, Arkashka tied Volodia and me our ties; he was an ace in doing that. Generally speaking, we dressed up and a couple of hours before the show arrived to the theatre to watch Menglet (Georgiy Menglet 1912 – 2001, a Soviet and Russian actor), who was performing on that day. To our surprise we were let inside the theatr, and the cafeteria was open,

and to our joy there were all objects of our dreams available –open sandwiches with smoked sausage “Moskovskaya” and with meat loaf “Soviet”, and with cheese “Russian”, and most importantly there was Dvin there. There were also open sandwiches with caviar, but Volodia said that they were inedible , and one could believe him; he was from Bladik (Vladivostok), where people were experts on caviar. Arkashka also made his contribution, he demanded, or to be more precise insistently asked to uncork “Dvin” before our very eyes and pour it not under the counter, but on it. Arkadiy did not have to explain to us the reasons of such overscrupulousness, we immediately grasped his point. You know, in those days all soviet barmaids looked alike. Of course, they were different, but at the same time could be recognized a mile away.

They had grand stature with generous front, on the head there was a pile of henna dyed hair. And the most important thing was the face, all of them had a carbon copy face expression of one another: independently-arrogant and scornfully-condescending. And what else one could expect to see; they had access to deficit… Our barmaid was from the cohort, though she felt some inexplicable liking for us, and when we were making an order, she even whispered that she did not recommend taking caviar, as it was stale. It was something unbelievable. Or maybe it was because we showed up that early, and she was simply bored. Anyway when we after having a significant snack left and then came back again, she welcomed us , like old friends, and loudly proclaimed: “Well, shall we repeat that?”. That was exactly what we came for. Generally speaking after visiting the cafeteria twice and having a full-scale sampling of “Dvin”, we felt comfortable and a bit frivolous. Volodia kept asking why in the halls and everywhere around, where it was only possible, there were hanging fire extinguishers. He approached them and checked their expiry dates on labels. Arkashka and I worried that he could have an idea to test some of them. Bliakher read a long lecture to Volodia saying that there were many people in the theatre, and that risk of casualties was high in case of fire. All in all he was doing his best to distract Volodia from his intention to test fire extinguishers, at least one of them. As for Arkashka’s comment about a big number of people in the theatre, he argued that if calculated on that day, the number of fire extinguishers was twice bigger than the audience. And he was right, son of a gun.

That was especially obvious in the auditoriu. We, like three idiots, sat in the third row, and there was nobody in front of us, but interestingly enough, there were not many people behind us as well. Yeah, Kurgan theater had problems with attendance. They obviously did not have any problems with fire extinguishers, but the attendance left much to be desired. When we settled in the hall, Volodia kept looking around. It turned out that he was looking for fire extinguishers in the auditorium, and was indignant by the obvious fault of the administration; in the foyer and corridors there were fire extinguishers in every meter or two, but there was none in the auditorium.

He started debating with Arkashka demanding, that at least one fire-fighting set had to be placed in the auditorium, the one which consisted of a pick hammer, a crow, a hook, a cone-shaped pail and a spade. And together with the set, there had to be a box with sand. Volodia got so much carried away giving reasons to Arkashka that as soon as few people came there, a half, or at least one fourth of the chairs could be taken out, and in the spare space fire hoses could be put and a couple of fire hydrants be installed.

Then such extremely fire-safe theatre would attract crowds of people, who would come there to see new products of firefighting accessories. And then the price could be raised to compensate the disassembled chairs. Volodia was carried away to greater degree than even Bender (a character of a satirical novel “The Twelve Chairs” by Ilf and Petrov), when he was predicting transformation of Vasiuki into New Moscow. I did not interfere into their discussion, but did not miss any curve of thinking of the new genius of fire prevention in the theatre. I even liked that Arkashka and I got such a unique roommate. Their interesting conversation was interrupted by an attendant, as gradually they started talking really loud. Volodia set quietly for five minutes and then again started looking out for something that time on the stage. “It’ a disgrace”, - his loud whisper could be heard, “There are no fire extinguishers on the stage. And what if there is fire!”. Arkasha almost lost his temper trying to placate Volodia. He asked me to help him. He’d better not, because I absolutely agreed with Volodia and his clincher: “And what if there’s fire?”. And then unspeakable happened in the middle of the first act.

There was smoke coming from under the back curtain. Volodia was the first to cry: “Fire, we’re burning, help!”. And he was shouting not with suffering, but with joy. He instantly rushed somewhere from his seat. He got crazy, Arkashaka and I concluded. However a real fireman came out from the curtain and asked everybody to leave the auditorium without panic and rush. When we were leaving the hall, Volodia was running to us with a fire extinguisher in his hands. When he reached the stage he banged the fire extinguisher’s fuse at the floor and threw it on the stage. The fire extinguisher was rolling, spitting foam everywhere. Volodia was happy. “Just look at that – it functions”, he grabbed us by sleeves. Now you, please, explain to me, what really happened? All evening long before the beginning of the show and after it we were talking about fire, so it turned out to be self-fulfilling prophecy?

However that night left the most wonderful memories, and especially those of “Dvin”. The fact that we continued the so finely started evening with “Posolskaia” (vodka brand) did not spoil the impression, but even added spice to it.

8 April, 2013.

© Copyright: Oleg Syedyshev, 2012
Publishing licence #214040300518

Translated by Viktoria Potykinato content