The cruise was elegant and reasonably priced.
"Does the price include food?" we asked.
"Da" they told us.
"Is the tour in English?"
"Da, da,da, of course, [you silly tourists]."
We took our seats by the window only to realize that it was raining so hard that we couldn't see a thing through the dripping glass. (Going up to the deck to get blown away by the horizontal sheets of icy rain was out of the question.) As soon as we sat down, a trio of waitresses handed us menus in Russian.
"We were told the food was included," we argued.
"Nyet. No food."
We looked at the prices and settled for two cappuccinos; about the only thing we could afford.
We reasoned that at least we could navigate the river and learn the ins and out of the city, those great tidbits of local history you don't see in guide books (we hadn't been able to find an English guide book in Moscow). The boat started to move and the plasma TVs showed a National Geographic documentary about sharks. The volume was off. We passed what looked like important sites but no one was describing anything neither in Russian nor English. When the waitress came back with our overpriced cappuccinos we asked, "Isn't the tour in English?"
"Nyet. No English and no Rusky. You pay headphones here," and she pointed at a set of complicated instructions on our table mats which included going online, downloading a program, and renting headphones. Luckily I don't go anywhere without my computer. The WiFi on the boat was protected and getting the password took a long time. We passed more interesting sites. We wondered what they were. Eventually we were able to log on, go online, find the correct website, download the right tour (there were 20 of Russia), and after letting out a litany of colorful expletives, we called the waitress back.
"Two headphones, please."
"No headphones," she said.
We looked at each other and then at her.
"Why not?" Tom wanted to know.
At this point, I just wanted to divide the following five minutes into equal parts for laughing, crying, jumping into the river, and slapping the person who had first told us that the tour was in ENGLISH. I didn't want to know why they did not have headphones, which was just as well because she gave Tom a blank stare, shrugged her shoulders, and said "I'm sorry. Want food?"
And it rained. Hard. So hard that it felt as though the rain was right there with us at the table, angry and hungry. Wondering what in the world was that gigantic sculpture we had just passed by.