This may be my last long trip to Russia. Our adoption is essentially done and I leave in 24 days, possibly never to return for more than a few weeks at a time – if our plans work out. Larisa has been wavering occasionally, afraid that she will miss this place.
Today, her wavering ended.
We had a good morning in the park with Sonia. For a couple of hours, she rode her little bicycle around, played with other kids, begged for expensive rides, and played on the equipment. Good, except for the inevitable screaming, howling, bawling fit that she threw all the way back to the car. She really didn’t want to go home.
That upset Larisa enough to set a pattern for the rest of the day.
As we pulled out of our parking area, there was a new Toyota parked halfway across the driveway and damned near blocking the street. When I beeped at him to move, he waved at us and yelled to drive around. As we drove by, I could see him glaring at us while he talked on his cell phone.
What I didn’t see was Larisa presenting him with a single digit salute as we passed. Remember what I said about her not being one to leave well enough alone?
I got a few blocks away and looked back to see a new Toyota driving about a foot from my bumper and blowing its horn again and again. I ignored him until he passed us, almost running a truck off the road, slammed on his brakes, blocked the road and jumped out of his car.
Oh, I could see that he was tough one. Most men, frankly, aren’t that good in a fight. They don’t stay in shape and they don’t have much real experience. This guy looked tough – and very, very angry. I realized that if it came to blows, there would be two bad outcomes. One of us would be in the hospital explaining where it hurt, and the other would be in the police station explaining why that bastard deserved to be hurt.
I therefore did the manly and intelligent thing. I ignored him, drove around him, and continued on. I don’t care much for Russian police stations and even less for Russian hospitals.
It didn’t work. He passed me again and stopped in the middle of the road. I decided to drive to a nearby police station, figuring that it would be a calmer confrontation in front of the blue suits, so I cut through a gas station, and went back the way I came, heading for the police station. He cut through the same station at about 60, got ahead of me and blocked the road again, this time on a bridge. When he got out and headed for my car again, I decided it was time to play it out.
I could see why he was incensed. He was a Kabordinian man about 30. Not only had been flipped off, he had been insulted by a lowly, worthless female. His pride was mortally, horribly wounded.
But, I realized in a few seconds that he didn’t really want a fight. He jerked open my car door, stood next to the car and yelled first at me and then at Larisa. I have had a lot of fights in my life and I knew then that he didn’t want one. If he had wanted a fight, he would have reached into the car and grabbed my arm or shoulder to provoke it. When a man stands back and yells, it is because he wants his pride healed not his fists and face bruised.
Larisa told me later that he called me a lot of dirty, awful names, but I don’t much speak Russian, so I just sat calmly looking at him. The gist of the conversation was that Larisa was telling him he was parked illegally and he telling her he was legal and she was an uppity bitch. Larisa was obviously scared, but she didn’t back down. (Maybe the fact that I was between her and the idiot helped, but she was brave.)
I didn’t catch much of it until she told him she was going to the police to report his reckless driving. At which point he said he was a policeman and dared her to go to the station. So we drove to the station with him following us. By luck or skill, Larisa had given the man a way to salvage his pride without anyone getting hurt.
When we got to the station, there were several policemen out front. Larisa grabbed Sonia and marched up to the first cop she saw. Brilliant move, what could be more sympathetic than a mother and her child? I hung back, thinking that the man was not going to do anything in front of the cops unless my presence put too much pressure on his pride.
The Kabordinian guy came up, made a show of shaking hands with a couple of cops nearby, and then Larisa and he yelled at each for a while in front of the probably confused cop. I have no idea what was said. I don’t speak enough Russian and I was busy following another police officers’ instructions to get the car out of the police driveway, NOW!
After less than a minute, they ran out of insults and arguments, but the man’s pride was apparently salvaged by the argument and we all left – after he offered me sympathy for being married to Larisa and telling me I should control her better. Right. You ever try to keep the tide from coming in?
I am certain that over the coming years I will occasionally wake up at night wondering if I was a perfectly mature man making a rational decision to defuse a potential violent situation – or if I was just too chicken to fight a tough 30 year old Kabordinian. However, I can say for certain –
Miss Russia? Not much. Even Larisa is in a hurry to leave.