Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad the little old Russian ladies, known as a babushka in Russian, are still employed in some places that don’t require much physical labor, but the jobs they have are quite unnecessary….
Take for instance the babushkas working in the Moscow subway (not only in Moscow, but in all major cities throughout Russia). As you enter a station, one of the first people you’ll see is a woman, usually over the retirement age, sitting in a little glass booth no larger than a toilet stall watching people go through the turnstiles. Her job is to make sure that everyone pays their fare by using a pass and not skipping over or running through the turnstiles. Or sliding in closely behind someone else going through them to avoid paying. But this little old babushka is incapable of jumping the turnstiles and ankle tackling a freeloader. Her job? Blow a whistle and perhaps say a nasty thing or two…and that’s it. The whistle does nothing except make the freeloader smile and hurry his steps, sometimes picking up pace on an escalator going down into the depths of the Moscow subway system.
The next person you’ll see in a subway station is a babushka at the bottom of any escalator in a little booth the same size as the previous one. Her job? To ensure the safety of those being sucked into the bowels of the Moscow subway. Should anything go wrong, she should stop the escalator. She’s not usually a fast mover as you can imagine plus she barely fits inside her little booth, so the chances of her hitting the emergency stop button before any of the people reaching the end of the escalator hits it are pretty slim. She has a screen in front of her showing pictures from a camera of people getting on and off the escalators (both up and down), which she will watch intensely, just like a child enthralled in a cartoon he’s watched hundreds of times but still begs to watch it again, slowly dozing off somewhere in the middle….just as the babushka does at the bottom of the escalator. No one will disturb her because she has a big fat sign on the glass booth that reads: No directions given. Or in other words, just leave me alone and let me watch this cartoon, and snooze a bit.
I have traveled throughout Europe and North America and have never seen any little old ladies sitting in little booths at the bottom of an escalator in subway systems. Nor have I seen any little old ladies sitting near the turnstiles at the entrance. Actually, no one is sitting at either of these posts.
OK, let’s toss out some numbers here. The Moscow subway system has 182 stations, 95% of which have two entrances (2 babushkas per station at the turnstiles). Some 80% of those 182 stations have escalators going down into or up out of the station, plus if it’s a transit station, then there are at least another two if not four more escalators inside. There are at least three work shifts if not four or five because the subway system opens at 5:00 a.m. and closes at 2:00 a.m. (170 stations x 2 x 2 x 4 x 4…I’ve already lost count…). So anyway, we have thousands of babushkas on the payroll not actually doing anything but blowing whistles and snoozing.
The next babushka snoozer job is at the museum…there you’ll find several of them, sitting in separate galleries, eyeing all those thieves, whom we would refer to as visitors. But not these babushkas…they sit silently, watching your every move. The second you walk into a gallery, she’ll perk up and tilt her head in your direction, literally squaring you up (you thief!). More often than not, she’ll peel herself from the chair and walk you through the gallery, keeping a safe distance and avoiding any chat. And she’ll “escort” you out of her gallery as you move into another, which is not her territory, where yet another babushka will pick up the trail. I really don’t think I would be able to rip a 6x5 van Gogh off the wall of the Pushkin Museum in downtown Moscow in broad daylight and be able to run out of the building. And even if I did, I can’t picture being ankle tackled or wrestled to the ground by a babushka who is just barely able to shuffle her feet across the floor. You’ll find these “crime stoppers” in any museum, big or small, so don’t even try to acquire a unique souvenir or you’ll face the babushka wrath. If no one is in the gallery, then the babushka sits silently, dozing off now and again….
Now there is one other babushka snoozer job that is extremely hard to fathom. You’ll find this babushka at the subway stations that have those automatic picture booths. You know the kind where you put money in, sit down inside the booth, close the black curtain and then the machine starts asking you to make selections on the screen, gives you a countdown before the flash, asks you to choose the best photo or try reshooting…finally you choose and the pictures come spitting out of the outside wall and you grab them and go on your way.
So, what’s this babushka’s job? She sits and waits for someone to use one of these automatic machines, opens the curtain, puts your money inside the slot, closes the curtain and hands you your photographs. Then plomps herself back down on the chair and takes a snooze until the next person arrives. I hardly ever see these machines working…then again I never see these babushkas actually at work either.
Again, don’t get me wrong, I’m glad they’ve got something to do, but how much would the city (and government) budget be cut if we got rid of "unnecessarily unnecessary jobs"….
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- firstname.lastname@example.orgThere is no unnecessary job in society17:47, 20/10/2011Having travelled to Moscow and treavelled through out the subway system I have seen these babushkas at work in the Moscow subway. While traveling throughout Russia I have seen babushkas busy selling flowers and vegetables from their gardens in specific areas of their city.
At first I was taken a back by what I saw as in Canada and the United States our societies generally do not permit the elderly to sell goods like this on the street.
I was reluctant to support the babushkas until I was educated by my Russian guide who was herself 50 years old.
"This is how the babushkas earn their money, live and participate in society" she explained. "I ALWAYS make a point of supporting them." And with that she purchased some home grown vegetables.
As a general rule money earned in an economy can be multiplied 4x. So the income that all of the Babushkas are making is then multiplied 4x as it is spent and respent in the economy.
This means that some of this income will in time help pay your salary.
The jobs that the babushkas have also gives them purpose in their society. All day long they are surrounded by people rushing here and rushing there while they keep an eye on things.
As a general rule from my observations in Moscow, people followed the rules and did not try to cheat the system.
Appreciate what these babushkas do and take the time to say "Thank you". STOP and say "Thanks for working today! It is always nice to see you". For those at the bottom of the escalators give a wave and smile.
No doubt they will ignore you, but they WILL see you. And inside they will be smiling, appreciated for being there.
When you reach the age of the babushkas which is no mean feat, then you will better appreciate how important it is for them to be a part of their Russian society.
The money the babushkas earn may be spoiling their grandkids with gifts, dinners, and their time on days off.
- JohnNBabushki working are symbol of a problem23:35, 20/10/2011I recall an article from Anna Politkovskaya about the many homeless old women in Moscow, whose families won't look after them (unlike Chechnyan families), nor will the state. Many of these impoverished babushki are perhaps what has driven the People's Share group to protest, as they note that there are 23 million poor people and 3 million homeless in Russia. Rather than working for treats, many of these old women are working to rent a broom-closet space so they have a place to sleep.
- AndrewThomasWork in the Subway or Play Bingo02:40, 21/10/2011"I have traveled throughout Europe and North America and have never seen any little old ladies sitting in little booths at the bottom of an escalator in subway systems."
That's because all the old ladies in the U.S. get Social Security Checks plus perhaps a Pension or Annuity of some kind.
The U.S. was very prosperous in the 50's and 60's, so all the old people paid into the system, and usually have a lot of savings, from the depression era mentality.
Many of the old ladies in the U.S. can be found in bingo parlors. My grandmother plays bingo 8 times a week: once a day, and twice on Sunday. That costs quite a bit, but she manages to get the income from somewhere, without having to work for it.
The alternative for the babushkas, if you want a U.S. model, is to just give them their pension payments without working. But, you will say that is worse than what you have now.
At least the old ladies are making a slight contribution to society in Russia, rather than in the U.S., where all they do is yell and screams at, and abuse the Bingo callers; anytime they make the slightest mistake, or take too long, or go too fast.
And, some of them get really mean about it, too.
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