Friday, October 20, 2006

The Most Polite Person Ever

Dear darling Ed Winkleman is in Bishkek, representing Art from America. Or, as one boorish individual would have it, the Corrupting Evils of Capitalism.

Muratbek said the panel discussion began at 10:00 am and that Sergey was scheduled to speak first. Sergey made it very clear to a surprised Muratbek that this simply would not do. No one would attend a lecture so early in Russia, Sergey said. Muratbek charmingly, but firmly, noted that Bishkek was not Russia (a statement that appears to takes on much greater significance in this context the more I think about it). They went a few rounds, with Sergey showing little sign of relenting, making me somewhat uncomfortable (and I assumed also making Eva, a curator from Armenia with us, who was also scheduled to lecture, uncomfortable), so I announced that I would be very happy to go first. This seemed to settle the matter and should have let the awkward moment whither, had Sergey not continued (as if to justify this new order of speakers), "People always expect the most interesting lecture to be last."
And it gets worse. Pretty Lady defiantly and vociferously awards dear Edward the First Annual Pretty Lady Award for Flawless Courtesy under Extreme Duress.

Come to think of it, this incident redoubles her suspicion of persons who go around spouting the motto, "Be the Change You Want To See In the World." The wisest of sayings may be distorted beyond recognition, by both context and interpretation.


Chris Rywalt said...

That's Russians for ya. I've never met a Russian who wasn't so stubborn as to make mules seem pliable.

I was working in this office once where I had to wait for this Russian programmer to finish what he was doing so I could take it and continue. I asked him politely when he'd be done, and he said he'd be done in a little while. A little while passed and I asked again. He seemed annoyed, and said he'd be done in a little while. More of a little while passed and I asked him again -- not trying to pester, just to find out when I'd be getting my work done.

He looked at me and very pointedly leaned back in his chair, folded his arms behind his head, and stared at me until I went away.

There's a reason you never start a land war in Asia.

Bob said...

chris rywalt:

I worked with a lot of Russian scientists and engineers at the Superconducting Supercollider before it was dumped into the dustbin of politically unnecessary research.

They were some pretty good guys actually. They really knew how to party.

I suspect your Russian programmer was just another run-of-the-mill a**hole. You can find them everywhere, often wanting to be the last speaker, as PL noted.