Today, I had a plan to meet a girl from CouchSurfing. We were supposed to meet at the center of Park Culturi metro station. Problem is, there are two metro lines that run there. So I made the best guess I could as to where I needed to be.
Another issue was that I was there half an hour early. And the place where I was waiting had no chairs. So on the floor, I sat. Earlier, I had asked my host if I needed to bring my passport with me. She said I should be fine with a copy. I hoped she was right.
As I sat on the ground, people walked by and stared. Obviously, this was not normal behavior in a Russian metro station. I didn’t mind, until I saw a police officer. I figured I should stand up to avoid trouble. When he was out of eyeshot, I figured I’d be fine and sat back down.
After a while, the police officer came back. I was still on the floor. He saw me before I could stand up. The grin on his face suggested I was going to be in big trouble.
He came over and said something in Russian. I hoped he would walk away, so I didn’t have to show my foreigner-ness. He didn’t walk away. So I said that I didn’t understand Russian, in Russian. And then I winced. He pointed over in the distance and made a gesture for a bench. I walked along with him in the bench’s direction, then stopped and asked, “Center?” He looked at me with a look that suggested he understood why I was waiting and pointed back to where I was.
At that point, I thought, “Awww, that wasn’t bad at all. Everyone makes suuuuch a big deal of them checking papers and everything, but it’s not a problem. Hmmm, maybe he isn’t really a cop with real authority.”
I went back to my spot to wait.
A little later on, the police officer was standing with a short, dark man. The short, dark man was showing the police officer something. As the man walked toward me, I saw him putting away his passport. It became quite obvious that he was asked for his papers. So, believe it or not, being white seems to have some advantages.
Epilogue: The girl I hung out with confirmed that the police officer was, in fact, a full-on police officer. I saw him again as the girl and I went through the same station. I waved, he waved back, slightly surprised. We both smiled.