March 26, 2003 I Go Solo

Posted in Rodger's Russia Book | Posted by rodger |


Hey, I made it all the way to the post office/internet station all by myself. Larisa and her mother are at a government office trying to get permission to bring a couple of Larisa’s paintings back to the states and I am alone in Moscow.

I can get around alright, but I am going to starve to death. I can’t read a restaurant menu.

I learned the Russian word for “that”, “eto” and have been feeding myself with that one word, and a finger. The most common form of business here is a Kiosk. It’s a glass prison on the sidewalk with a small window through which you shout your order to a surly clerk who throws your merchandise back through the same tiny window. I eat by pointing to food and saying “eto”. If I want two of them, I say “eto, eto”. Russians have no sense of humor, but most eventually and grudgingly give me what I want.

I don’t know what the Russian for “Pedestrian” is, but it must be the same word as “Target”. In Russian, cars rule the road, and drivers drive without any attention to whether or not there is a person on the road. This is apparently because during socialism only important people had cars, and they didn’t care if the poor failed to get out of the way.

Larisa tells me that if a driver hits a pedestrian, they might sue the pedestrian for damage to their car. I thought she was kidding until some jackass actually nudged me with his bumper when I didn’t get out of the way fast enough.

I have always resented those stupid movie scenes where our hero drives at high speed down sidewalks and side roads and through intersections scattering pedestrians left and right. My internal censor keeps saying “You can’t do that”. Guess what. That’s how they drive every day in Moscow.

Lane spacing is also as free form as English spelling was before dictionaries. On the same street you have 2, 3 or 3.5 (half street, half curb) lanes over a few blocks. One of our drivers gestured to the surface of the street and told us that there used to be white lines on the pavement, but everyone was happy when they wore off because they got in the way of good, creative driving.

Our apartment is on a main street near downtown Moscow. Yesterday morning I had to jump back into the doorway, because someone had decided that the sidewalk was wide enough to drive on. Parking is also free form. People park on the left side, right side, or sidewalk. They park parallel or nose in or slanted or, in a few cases, in the middle of the street as the mood dictates.

I decided not to rent a car.

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