Russian papers print scores of ads by lovelorn young men and women who can't get that accidental meeting out of their minds.

By Kevin O'Flynn
Published: October 1, 2004

The paid advertisement is very big, the picture blurry like those they show on television when someone has gone missing.

They met each other more than three months ago, their eyes connecting across an uncrowded room, or rather, a supermarket.

Not that it was a romantic rendezvous. Midnight had passed at the Sedmoi Kontinent supermarket just a short ways from Metro Yuzhnaya, and the young man was in need of some bathroom wares.

But the moment came, they spoke and something clicked -- on one side, at least. Or, as the advertisement says, "The young man wants once more to ask the girl, 'Where do they sell toothbrushes?'"

In the picture in Bolshoi Gorod, a woman can vaguely be seen as she makes her way down the supermarket aisle. For all I know, the man may be in the photo, too -- behind the toilet paper rolls, or maybe the melons -- since the young woman's head is turned to the right, as if, perhaps, she were answering a question.

Below the ad is the word OTZOVITES! (GET IN TOUCH!), and an offer of reward for any help.

Whether or not the young woman would be flattered to know that her admirer had gone to such lengths -- i.e. persuading the Sedmoi Kontinent lot to search their security cameras and print a CCTV picture -- is another question.

Philip Larkin, or a poet with as much regret and longing, once wrote of the moment he met a woman's glance on the train and failed to act. Still, I can't imagine Larkin or any other British poet placing an ad in the Hull Observer classifieds section to try and find her.

Russian papers print scores of these advertisements, as young men and women search for that lost half-glance over the cornflakes in a supermarket, or across the metro car.

Unlike the Unknown Shopper, most prefer to place free ads. And it's fair to say that they usually have more chance of being remembered than Mr. Toothbrush.

"To the girl who went from Marksistkaya to Novogireyevo and then on Minibus No. 17. I would be interested in getting to know you," writes another lovelorn ad placer. "I was in green clothes with dreadlocks."

"Oy, I'm in love," writes Verta in Bolshoi Gorod. "It happened in the Perekryostock shop in Odintsovo at around 1 a.m."

A man came up to Verta with an open bottle of champagne. They chatted. Then her taxi arrived, and she left. She regretted it immediately. "I don't even know his name. ... Please, anyone, help me find him."