Murphyskis Law: Whatever can go wrong in Russia does

Every Jewish press trip I’ve taken has had its share of minor calamities. So it was no surprise my expedition to Russia last month would evoke a touch of Murphyski’s Law, in which whatever could go wrong did.

• In my Nizhny Novgorod hotel room, TV reception was limited to a handful of Russian-language stations and one from Canada, a Trinity Broadcasting Network outlet that exclusively programs music singing the praises of Jesus.

• The maid, who had obviously cut all her training classes, didn’t make my bed, empty the overflowing trash can, change the wet towels or replenish the half-roll of thin, ultra-narrow toilet paper.

• Reconstruction hammering began at the hotel too early every morning, rendering any other wake-up calls meaningless.

• Breakfast, so graciously included in the room price, featured an off-color piece of liver from an unidentified animal.

• My driver made sure I arrived for my flight back to Moscow at 4 a.m., in plenty of time to sit in the dark at the unopened, deserted airport.

• On that flight, via a small, antique Aeroflot jet, I was sardined by a macro-muscular German team that transformed the aisles into an obstacle course, with gym bags and hockey sticks jutting every which way.

• In New York, before heading to Russia, I decided to visit an acquaintance of my daughter. Train service was halted because of overhead wires dangling near the tracks. And the driver of the substitute feeder-bus didn’t bother announcing any stops.

• My neurotic need to arrive at the airport an extra hour early, to deflect any potential problem, was met by this response from a clerk at JFK: “You sure left yourself plenty of time — your flight doesn’t leave until tomorrow.”

• Delta Airlines’ inflight glatt kosher meal by Weiss may be the nastiest I’ve ever spit out. But I figured that even the vengeful God of the Bible couldn’t be so cruel as to make me chew or swallow it.

• Once in Moscow, the magnetized card to open my hotel room door failed. I had to shlep my heavy luggage down an endless corridor and to the front desk, where an unsmiling clerk gave me another that worked.

• The next day, my camera battery fell out in the room, but I didn’t discover it was missing until well after the touring van took off. I missed what undoubtedly were the most colorful pictures of the trip.

• No one learned to spell my name right. A Moscow clerk came closest, but he somehow Scandinavianized it — to Weingaarten.

• In St. Petersburg, I accidentally took a sleeping pill before embarking on a tour. Maybe I’ll catch the sights next time.

• Because of prior warnings about bad food, I shlepped half a salami plus heavy cans of fruit and tuna all over Russia — and then all the way home to California, where they still reside in my refrigerator.

• And because of prior warnings of a cold spell, I shlepped a heavy parka, a wool scarf, a wool ski cap and padded leather gloves all over Russian in weather that ranged from the high 70s to the low 90s.

Ah, that Murphyski.


Smiles — big Chabad contribution to a bleak Russian city