05 August, 2007

A fluttering on the floor

Sheremetyevo-2 is not, in general, a nice place to wait several hours for a plane. I'm not really sure why: is it the layout, or the policies, or the fact that it was built during a period in history when the average Russian could not even travel inside Russia without permission, let alone leave it? Customs are controlled before check-in, and check-in isn't allowed until a green light flashes on the monitors next to the flight number. The result is a fair-sized crowd of people standing idly about the main hall on the second floor with all their luggage. At least some recent renovation means that visitors to Russia don't find it as drab a place as it was when I first went.

The airport lacks many conveniences we take for granted. The bathrooms, for example, lack changing tables for infants. The authorities have designated a room for mothers with infants, but a sign on the door states that entry is allowed only to mothers and infants who possess a doctor's cerficate testifying to the baby's health.

I didn't realize until now how spooky the implications of that sign can sound. My wife was appalled from the moment she read it. She refused to visit the airport's clinic to obtain such a certificate, and changed our daughter in the bathroom instead.

I waited for her outside. There, I noticed a fluttering on the dark stone floor near the wall opposite me. That area of the airport is rather dimly lit, so I had to walk near it before I could convince myself that I was not observing crosswinds from the vents that tormented a shred of cloth. Instead, a small, black-and-orange butterfly clung to life.

It struggled for as long as I waited, flapping its right wing energetically. All in vain; it failed to raise itself from the ground. Was the wing broken? Why did it not flutter its left wing?

And how did a small butterfly make its way into the airport in the first place, only to end up on the floor near the bathrooms? Sheremetyevo-2 is not, in general, a nice place to wait several hours for a plane; I doubt it is any better a place to wait several hours to die.

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