It was my last night in St. Petersburg. Man, I enjoyed the city so much. I met lots of people, enjoyed the sights, and I just didn't want the trip to end. I was there on business, but I had plenty of time for leisure. Well, my last night ended on a real bang and I could have lost my life. I really was lucky, and this story does sound like a movie. I still can't believe what transpired that evening.
On my final night in St. Petes, friends invited me and my buddy Ralph for dinner at a local spot in town. As it was my last night, I really wanted to have an adventure. So, I pre-gamed before heading over to the restaurant. Once there, we enjoyed a fantastic meal, but I couldn’t help noticing the most beautiful woman at the bar. She kept looking at our table, and it was obvious that she was a working woman of the night. As a married man, I mention this because I think it’s okay to appreciate beauty. However, there was no way that I would initiate anything with another woman. Now, it wouldn’t be a Russian dinner without spirits, and that we had. Needless to say, we left the place feeling quite nice.
Walking in the crowded streets of St. Petes was always an adventure, and our hotel was only about a quarter of a mile away from the restaurant. Well, I knew that I wanted something more that night, but nothing too crazy. So, My buddy Ralph and I found ourselves in a Karaoke bar, of all places. I hate singing Karaoke, but this place was so interesting. Lots of locals and the drinks were plenty. So, we enjoyed ourselves as drunken locals sang their hearts out. After about an hour, Ralph had enough but I just couldn’t end the night yet. So, I stayed. I met a couple of locals (all drunk), and I almost got up to sing since I was pretty buzzed myself. About two hours later, I had enough and I knew that I had to pack my belongings for an 11 AM flight back to the states. So, I left the joint only to find a cab. Now, I was only about 1.5 miles away from my hotel, but I somehow found myself in a gipsy cab, and this is when the real adventure began.
Once in the cab, the driver asked for my destination. I told him the name of the hotel, and he agreed. The driver looked asian. Maybe he was Siberian? I have no idea, but he asked for my cell phone for some reason. Without asking why, I handed it over to him. At this point we were on our way to my hotel. Within minutes, we were in front of the hotel. I reached in my pocket for money, then the driver stepped on the gas! Seconds later, I yelled as the hotel became a distant view in the rearview mirror. I couldn’t believe it, and my heart began to pound. I kept yelling the name of the hotel, but he just kept driving quickly through the streets. I had no idea where we were headed, and it was midnight at least.
As the driver continued driving furiously, I spotted the white cell phone in his cabin area. I knew that I should try to get it, and all of a sudden I found myself reaching over the seat to grab the phone. The driver grabbed my hand and pulled my fingers back to retrieve the phone while swerving all over the street. I must have had some insane strength because I held on to the phone and got it loose right before punching the driver in the left neck/head area with all of my might. It was all a blur as my flight or flight response kicked in. He stopped, then I opened the door and got the hell out of the car. I thought I was some kind of bad ass because I didn’t even run. I just walked off, but the driver just took off. Yes! I was free and I had my phone so I could find my way back to the hotel. Not! I grabbed his phone, and the language was set to Russian.
Now, it was past midnight, and I had no idea where I was. In about 11 hours or less I would fly back home to the US. I was still buzzed, and I didn’t know what the hell I was to do. So, I just walked and looked for landmarks that I may have recognized. The streets were pretty bare, and there was a cold vibe to the city. Around me I noticed tenement buildings and business establishments alike. I had no idea where I was. I found a restaurant and went in for help. Some locals looked at me and laughed. They asked if I wanted them to call the cops. I said no thanks, and kept it moving. I walked through alleys, jumped over a few fences, and walked through some park in an attempt to find my bearings. I was still buzzed. Really buzzed. As I approach a staircase overlooking the water, I saw a business fella with a brief case walking towards the water. I kept pace with him until he finally asked me if I was okay. I told him what happened, and it turned out that he was a Russian-American there on business. I told him where I needed to go, and he pointed me on the right direction. We parted ways when he arrived at the train station, so I had to continue on my own. Now, the sun was rising, and I could see tourists and early risers doing their business. I knew I was close to the hotel as I recognized the area. I passed by some military base and that was pretty chilling as I looked at Russian military trucks and canons.
Finally, I arrived at my hotel right on time for the 6 AM morning buffet. So, before even hitting my room, I enjoyed the biggest breakfast I could have. I really looked pretty beat up compared to everyone else, who were so well dressed. I felt horrible, but I still had to pack and get to the airport by 9 AM. Right when I thought the craziness was over, I noticed that my bank account was nine hundred dollars short! It turns out that the karaoke bar ripped me off as well because I only had three drinks there. I promptly called my amazing bank and they took care of me.
I packed up and found myself at the airport as planned, but I still couldn’t believe what had just happened. Even worse was the fact that I had activated Find my iPhone as an alert and my wife got the notification. She never was able to hear from me after that, so she was so worried as she didn’t hear from me until I was able to connect to wifi once in Germany for a layover. I used my laptop to chat with her.
I got home safe and sound, but with that experience fresh on my mind, I couldn’t sleep for about two days, and I had to resume teaching my middle school class in a matter of days. I am thankful that I didn’t get hurt and that I didn’t lose money. I ended up going back to Russia the following year for the same matter of business, and I simply didn’t learn from the first time. That’s another story though!