I forgot to mention that on our red-eye flight from Moscow to Barnaul we sat across the aisle from a group of four men traveling together.

It seems that three of them had traveled from Barnaul to accompany the fourth home from Moscow who had recently been released from prison.

Note: Russian airplanes allow the seats to flop forward when not occupied.

After takeoff, they settled into two rows, two of the men sitting down on flopped over seats facing toward the back, and two facing forward, as if around a table. They were well prepared with TWO two-liter bottles of cheap vodka, lots of bread, and salami. And apparently they had no problem carrying on a knife with which to slice the meat and bread. Sigh. Russian airlines never seem to have any concerns about excessive drinking.

In any case, A and I spent lots of time studiously ignoring them so as to avoid being drawn into conversation. Nothing worse than chatting with heavily drinking men on airplanes. Well, I’m sure there are, but it’s one of my least favorite situations. We did get to hear plenty about prison life and what had been going on back home since the jailbird had left.

They finished off all (!!!) the vodka about 3/4s of the way through the flight, at which point they all passed out. As we were landing, the three began throwing money at the fourth and liberally dosing him with advice on how to stay out of trouble.

It was kind of touching, actually.