When I was thinking about a name for the blog, third rail popped into my head. I don’t really know why, it just appeared, floating in my brain like one of those cartoon light bulbs that goes off when someone gets an idea. I put together the symbolism later.
I thought of the name and the cover photo at the same time. The Yerevan Metro is one of my favorite city secrets. Although why, is a mystery. It’s not really that great, goes to severely limited stops mainly in Kentron, and doesn’t make much of a dent in the city traffic problems.
But I ride it whenever I get the chance. Years ago, it used to freak people out. Since I don’t exactly blend in with the local population, I would see looks of amusement, terror, curiosity, anytime I stepped on the train. “Oh My God, why did this foreign woman wander down here?!? What is happening?!?!?!?!”
I also like torturing the token sellers. Soviet ladies, stuck in little booths hours on end, stacking and re-stacking coins and metro tokens. My lines are always the same, usually shouted with much enthusiasm: Mi hat! (one). This is followed by a perky Shnorhakalutyun! (thanks). They eye me suspiciously as I flounce off, token in hand. I got one to smile back one time, but it might have been gas. These ladies are hard core, it’s hard to tell.
So the perfect picture formulated in my mind. Some of the metro stops are above ground, and I pictured a long shot down the track, rails in the foreground, trees and a few warehouses in the background, it would be perfect.
“Mi hat” “Shnorhakalutyun” On with the show.
Taking photos in the metro stations is strictly forbidden. I’ve never gotten caught, but have heard stories from other people on being approached and admonished by security. Something to do with national security. Because every soviet built metro station throughout Eastern Europe isn’t exactly the same. Anyway, I devised a clever plan. I would get off at the Nzhdeh station, cross to the other side and sit on a bench to wait for a returning train. Then, when I saw it was time for the train to approach, I would get up, quickly take the photo, then glide onto the train as the doors opened. I always wanted to be Jamie Bondyan.
As I sat waiting on the bench, I slid my camera out, checked the settings and waiting. At the perfectly timed moment, I stood up, walked out to the track, raised the camera, and froze.
Armenia doesn’t have a third rail.
My first reaction was not exactly stealth. Bahahahahahaha.
I pointed the camera down the track (sans rails) snapped a picture, and walked onto the train. HOW is this possible? I thought all subways had a third rail. Hence the urban slang term, the references in movies, use in political commentary, depictions in CARTOONS!?!?
Immediately discounting that this was a legitimate design choice, I started formulating the conspiracies. “Aber, we charge for 3, put in 2, nobody knows difference. Then we go to vacation Krasnoyarsk, girls are hot.”
I sighed. There was no conspiracy, this was just a giant metaphor for our independent little country. We have no third rail, no dangerous source of raw power, and we get by without it. I rode to the end of the line, winked at the grumpy woman in the booth eyeing the camera in my hand, and took the long escalator ride to the top.
Which is probably powered by hamsters running on tread-wheels.