Автобус (часть первая)

by Don  

The word for bus in Russian is автобус. Public transport is well developed in major Russian cities, much better than its counterpart in the sprawling cities of the American West. Russians regularly ride buses all over the country, and Russians visiting the US expect the same services to be available here. After all, a bus is fairly low-tech, so the Americans must have them all over the place, right? Imagine the surprise of my acquaintance Natasha, then, when she wanted help getting from Los Angeles to Denver. She figured that buses were cheap, so she could probably make the trip quickly and cheaply. Alas, that was cross-cultural ignorance. The trip from LA to Denver would have taken twenty-two hours, and it would have been more expensive than a plane ticket. I told her to grab a plane flight. Sure enough, for -less than- a bus ticket, she got to Denver by plane.

In America people smile to indicate that they are not currently hostile toward the person they are talking to. So a cashier in a grocery store smiles at the customer she talks to. A security guard smiles at a person he doesn't intend to be rude to. An IRS agent smiles when you walk up to him to ask a question because he is trying to make you feel comfortable.

Russia is not like that. Former students of mine have gotten on the bus in Russia, laughing and chatting, only to have one of the бабушки old ladies say:

В автобусе не улыбаются. You shouldn't smile on the bus.¹

Despite the lack of smiles the buses in Russia are überconvenient. They, along with the streetcars, electric buses, and subway, will take you wherever you need to go. You simply don't need a car to get around in Russia. So what are the phrases you need to describe your bus activity? Here we go:

Я сел в автобус. I got on the bus.
Я вышел из автобуса. I got off the bus.
Я поцеловал двух девушек в автобусе. I kissed two girls on the bus.
Я поехал с Воробьёвых гор до Красной площади на сто одиннадцатом автобусе. I rode from Sparrow Hills to Red Square on bus number one eleven.

¹ In this context the они form of the verb is used without the actual pronoun они to be functionally equivalent to a “you shouldn't” sentence.


Comment from: Eugene Azarenko [Visitor]

Truly, nobody cares whether you are smiling or not in the Russian bus. ))

12/03/09 @ 00:25
Comment from: Константин [Visitor]

Цитата: “В автобусе не улыбаемся.”
I would say “В автобусе не улыбаются” if would like to comment on someone’s inappropriate activity :o)
However it sounds strange. I never heard that smiling is not accepted in the bus.
Это просто были злые бабушки :о)

Don responds: You are right, of course, that usually the они form of the verb (without actually using the pronoun они) is used to indicate generally accepted behavior, however on occasion the мы form works as well, e.g. signs that say «Здесь не курим». They are not as common as они forms, but they do occur.

11/28/09 @ 10:23
Comment from: Don [Member]

Спасибо всем с dirty.ru, кто сообщил, что в предложении «Я поцеловал двух девушек на автобусе» должно быть «в автобусе». Ошибка поправлена.

Между прочим, перед выпуском блоговой статьи об автобусе я специально посоветовался с русской знакомой, можно ли в этом контексте упортреблять «на», а для неё фраза звучила нормально…

В том-то моя беда: среди моих знакомых есть те, кто целуются на крышах автобусов. Гм. Неужели это беда?

11/28/09 @ 08:51
Comment from: Max [Visitor]

Я поцеловал двух девушек на автобусе. I kissed two girls on the bus. - You should say “в автобусе” - in the bus. In this case bus is concedered as place, not mean of transport, because girl-kissing isn’t connected with transportation function of the bus.

11/28/09 @ 07:18

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