Treinta Días de la Verdad - Día 4

Something You Have to Forgive Someone For

Call me boring. Or lucky.

I've never been the victim of any great offense. But I have to choose something, or someone. I choose Russian youth (WARNING: uncensored photographs of Soviet/post-Soviet ne'er-do-wells ahead).

Like these guys, only without checkered pants.

Let me explain. No, that would take too long. Let me sum up:

Summer 2003. I'm in Russia telling the good word to anyone interested in hearing it. I found particular joy serving in the city of Omsk, where we found many willing to open their doors, and sometimes hearts and minds, to what we offered.

Even little people gots to hear the word.

One fine evening found my workmate and I walking along Krasniy Prospeckt ("Red Avenue" for those who don't hablo Russian). A posse of rapscallions approaches us and begins with the common conversation starter, "Are you American?" We answer in the affirmative. They then ask, "Are you Mormon?" Odd question at this point in an acquaintanceship, but eager to talk about who we are and why we were there, we emphatically confirm their suspicions.

Our mistake.

Used for self-defense. And harassing proselyting Americans.

The trio of miscreants nail us with pepper spray. By instinct or the grace of the Almighty I don't know, but each of us had the wherewithal to turn our heads and thus avoid a direct hit to our eyes. We immediately start to leave, walking briskly away from the scene of the crime. The mischievous malefactors follow us, so we break into a run. I, being the large and nonathletic sort (thanks to 4 years of work at McDonald's), slow us down enough for the cadre of cads to catch up and accost us. Surely this was to be our doom, pepper sprayed into oblivion by scalawags of questionable upbringing.

Enter the cavalry: a mob of hangabouts who come to our rescue.

More or less what our saviors looked like, just no baseball bats or idiotic headwear.

They slap our assailants around, calling them all manner of obscenities I thankfully didn't understand/can't remember, and ensure our immediate safety. As we breathlessly thank them for their help, we are informed the blaggards are none other than skinheads, villains who hate everything for no possible reason except that it's something to do.

I'm glad they didn't look like this. For many reasons.

Thanking our heroes again, we make our way home to inform our mission president what happened and wash the pepper spray off our faces. It burned our skin a little bit, but nothing we couldnholyunbelievabLEYOWZERCRAPYEAAAAARRRHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!! THE WATER IS WASHING THE PEPPER SPRAY INTO MY EYES!!!! IT BURNS!!!!! IT BURNS US!!!!!!

Yeah, this is about what it felt like.

Each of us spent the next 45 minutes on the floor writhing in unimaginable agony, squeezing our eyes shut in a weird attempt to alleviate the pain and lamenting our stupidity for something so asinine as trying to clean pepper spray from our faces.

The immediate aftermath of this encounter was that I was afraid to go outside for about a week. It happened relatively close to our apartment, and I kept wondering, "What if we see them again? What if they know where we live?" Things like that ran through my head constantly, until a long talk and a blessing later I got it under control.

Why did I choose this particular group of nudniks for this entry? I guess because it was the first time someone had made an effort to hurt me. It was deliberate, for no reason other than their obtuse worldview and it put real fear in me for the first time. Despite all that, though, I feel no ill will toward them.

Probably because this was to be their fate in a few years' time:

Thank you, Russian policy of forcing every guy serve in the military at age 18.


Peeser said…
Okay, I know this was a serious post, but first I gotta say that I LOVE the captions for the photos- and I really like the one of you knocking the mini-door. (What did that door even lead to?)

Anyway, I'm glad you were able to get past that experience and somehow grow from it. The closest I think I ever came to danger like that wasn't even that close- my companion and I were seriously afraid that this huge, German Shepherd-type dog that was standing still, but growling fiercely, would suddenly snap and maul us. (He didn't. Fortunately.)

And I love that you were saved by skinheads. Nice irony.
Steve said…
The antagonists were the skinheads, not the rescuers.

Apologies for the confusion.

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