Sometimes guidebooks can be really awesome – like our Trans-Siberian guidebook. It has a graphic that shows you how to write “I would like [number of tickets] [class of tickets] to [destination] leaving on [date] at [time of day], please.” in Cyrillic. And since you can’t buy train tickets in Russia online – you have to go down to the central ticket office to get overnight tickets to Moscow – having such a note invaluable. We presented our note to the woman at the information counter who smiled and promptly looked up the schedule for the trains the night we requested. She gave us a list and did her best to explain everything. It was pretty simple – date, time of departure, time of arrival, class of berths and cost for two tickets. We circled the ticket we wanted, crossed out the rest and got in another line to buy the tickets.
The line moved quickly enough until we were the next in line. The guy at the window must have been buying for a tour because he asked for a bunch of tickets – most of them for different dates and destinations – so it took forever. I noticed a sign in the window noting four 10-minute intervals throughout the workday. I looked at my watch and realized the next one, at 3pm, was coming up soon. The lines at the ticket windows next to us were pretty long and moving slowly so we decided to see what happens.
At 3pm the agent is still in the middle of processing that tour guy’s tickets. Doesn’t matter. She put his passport and all the tickets she has printed so far on the counter in front of him, but on her side of the glass, closed up and walked out of her cube. The guy was stuck looking at his tickets but couldn’t do anything with them until she came back. She didn’t finish his order then go on break – she was literally right in the middle of printing out a ticket when she stopped. But when she came back, she was was right where she’d left off – no need to regroup and review. After about 20 minutes it was our tun. And because of our handy note, we were done in about five minutes.