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Office Affairs and Chit-Chat Around a Russian Water Cooler

Облагора́живать: to ennoble

Michele A. Berdy

Imagine that we are a foreigner who has been study English. You’ve mastered many of the grammar — solely those annoying articles and absurd tenses — and your listening grasp is flattering good. So we go to the U.S. and meet someone in a coffee shop, who after a nice discuss says: “This is the beginning of a pleasing friendship.” And laughs. There we stand, wondering if you’ve been insulted, or didn’t understand, or pronounced something wrong.

That’s a long approach of saying: cocktail enlightenment depends when you’re training a language, even if it’s a movie done a gazillion years ago. Not usually will we learn a lot about a culture’s values, you’ll get the jokes around the office H2O cooler.

And speaking of the H2O cooler, run to your mechanism and download — legally, of course — one of the world’s biggest cinema about the workplace: Служебный Роман (Office Affair). Made by director Eldar Ryazanov in 1977, it is, on the one hand, an old-fashioned Cinderella story about an all-business association executive called наша мымра (our frump) by her underlings who is remade by love.

But like all Ryazanov movies, this one rises above the elementary story line by its amatory though clear-eyed description of late-Soviet life and people. Here the workplace is a shopping center, where employees sell any other дефицитные товары (goods in short supply) and where the trade kinship repute is not a noble figure fighting for the workers, though an insufferable busybody: А это Шура — симпатичная, но, к сожалению, активная. Когда-то её выдвинули на общественную работу и с тех пор никак не могут задвинуть обратно. (This is Shura — friendly but, unfortunately, really active. Once on a time we pushed her into social activism and ever given we haven’t been means to push her out of it.)

There is copiousness of wisdom in the film about work in general, like this avowal that I’m certain is common by everyone reading this: Лично я хожу на службу только потому, что она меня облагораживает (Personally we go to work usually since it ennobles me.) And then the obsession with reports and measuring swell that immature managers consider they invented turns out to have been used decades ago, and even in a revolutionary system: Если бы не было статистики, мы бы даже не подозревали о том, как хорошо мы работаем. (If it weren’t for statistics we wouldn’t have any thought how good we’re working.)

We also know the bosses who need to take some time out of the office, as evidenced by this brief dialog: — Представляете, Бубликов умер! — Как умер, почему умер, я не давала такого распоряже … (“Can we trust it — Bublikov died!” “What do we mean, he died? Why’d he die? we didn’t tell him … )

And we also know the endless flitting of the shawl for fellow employees. When one worker is asked to chip in for a wreath for the hapless Bublikov’s funeral, he responds: Ну да, если сегодня ещё кто-нибудь умрёт или родится, я останусь без обеда (Right, and if anyone else dies or is innate today, I’m going to go but lunch.)

And finally, only when you’re sleepy of being pushed around by your boss, remember: It could be worse. — Я уже подписала приказ о вашем назначении начальником отдела. — За что? Что я вам такого сделал плохого? (“I only sealed an order fixing we dialect head.” “For what? What did we do to you to deserve that?”) 

Michele A. Berdy, a Moscow-based translator and interpreter, is author of “The Russian Word’s Worth” (Glas), a collection of her columns.

Article source: http://www.themoscowtimes.com/article/564928.html