I went into our local grocery store the other day and something changed. I really do not like change in Kyiv because it messes up my carefully crafted routine and creates unnecessary stress. The change? The nice, pleasantly plump babushka was no longer helping paying customers with the vegetable & fruit scale. Must be cutbacks or new efficiency measures or she got fired. I seriously doubt the latter because she was skilled but I will miss her and still do. Customer service is not highly valued here, but she did provide high value to me, the foreigner. She made my life easier.
Who knows what management decided, but you are now all on your own when it comes to weighing your purchase and printing your price sticker. This is not really a big deal, although I really do miss that babushka working the scale. The way she quickly weighed and printed without saying a word was stupendous. Anyways, the only challenge is that the vegetables and fruits are in Ukrainian and unfortunately, this store does not use the number system.
I found this out the day the the pleasantly plump babushka was gone. I bought some firm, organic, fine red onions, which are actually sort of purple in color, and headed to the scale only to find myself alone, flying solo. I looked in vain for the faithful, dedicated babushka, but deep down feared the worst. She was forever gone. I emerged from my temporary depression and approached the scale, and being a cross-cultural dude, I figured that I had this, but deep down I felt that the Russian word for onion and Ukrainian word for onion were not the same. It was that feeling of, well, actually nothing. This is simply the way it is.
I returned to the red onion bin to find the Ukrainian word for red onion. Usually the names are there so you can properly type the name into the scale, but on this occasion, no. That would be way too easy for me. I returned to the scale and typed in the Russian word for onion and it was a major fail. Right at that moment, a clerk appeared next to me to rearrange some tomatoes. In Russian, I asked her, “What is the word for red onion is in Ukrainian?” She replied in Ukrainian with a word and I said in Russian, “That is Ukrainian, yes?” I pointed to the scale. That was a big mistake. She told me in Ukrainian that we live in Ukraine so of course we speak and use Ukrainian. I smiled (that is what Americans do) and said in Russian, “Of course we do. Could you please repeat that word for me?”
She did and then wanted to see if I could spell. It obviously was not her job to really help the idiot customer weigh and print. I pressed the wrong key and she said it again. After the third try, I made some headway and the clerk approved. Later, it finally dawned on me that the Ukrainian word for onion is almost identical the the German word for onion.
I went to get some lemons and waited in line at the scale and looked over the shoulder of the man in front of me. He was typing in the Russian word for his vegetable. Rookie mistake. I told him, “Ukrainian. You need the letter ‘TS’.” After a few seconds, I realized I was dealing with one of those idiot customers who only knows Russian. Where is that pleasantly plump babushka? With the line growing longer, he turned and looked painfully at me and said, “Do you speak English?” Yes I do, and it is your lucky day. I just happen to know the Ukrainian word for onion. Step back and watch this.