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Knights of the Vine RUSSIA


Best of the Road Awards
Text Fred Flintstone

After two weeks of memorable scenery and unmemorable driving back home, Fred was in for a surprise when he, Wilma and Fred Jr. arrived at Bedrocks main airport the taxi driver actually asked Fred to buckle up before leaving the terminal. This was a first. Only a few days later, a report in the Bedrock Times explained it. New traffic laws had gone into effect that increased the fines for violations an unbuckled seatbelt now cost 500 rubles ($20), which meant that on-the-spot fines had increased commensurately as well. Since that time, virtually every gypsy cab driver has asked Fred to buckle up. This was a small lesson that economic incentives can actually save lives, since lack of seatbelt use must be a main contributor to road deaths.

The return from the airport reminded Fred that annual Best of the Road awards were overdue, based upon the memorable impressions left on so many occasions on Bedrock streets. Here are Freds Best of the Year picks:

Best Reason to Wear Clean Underwear

Freds mom always told him that he should put on clean underwear every day in case of an accident wouldnt want the doctors and nurses to see dirty underwear would we? As Fred was taking Fred Jr. to the bus on a cold, dark December morning, traffic slowed revealing two GAI officers covering a body in the centerline, kicking around broken red and clear glass and plastic. It was a hit-and-run. To top it off, Fred Jr. commented that the evening before he and mom had seen two more just like that on the way home from school, but they looked like they were still alive.

Best Reason to Keep the Side Windows Clean

Speechless, Fred stared out the passenger side window at about 5 pedestrians as his Lada 99 gypsy cab slid sideways down the centerline of a icy six lane road after the driver had swerved around a slower car. This flock of pedestrians were waiting in the center to scramble the next three lanes at an uncontrolled zebra crossing. Fred could see the whites of their eyes as they stared wide-eyed at the oncoming Lada, unable to back up or move forward into the two-way traffic. Just meters away, a couple of the Ladas tires caught on a stretch of dry pavement, careening the car into the oncoming traffic. The Lada then did a 180 and headed back across the highway leaving Fred looking back out his passenger windows at the pedestrians as they scampered the final distance. The Lada slid across the final three lanes into a car parked on the right side of the road. When the wheels stopped, Fred saluted, said do-svidaniya and caught another cab.

Best Way to Make New Friends and Learn Local Etiquette

Fred got his Silver Streak towed, and, deciding to do things the right and proper way, spent seven hours at the GAI waiting in line for documents that would allow him to pick it up at the spetz-stoyanka (special parking lot) on the other side of the city. As a foreigner, he had an opportunity to learn the fine points of Bedrock queuing etiquette, and some new local terminology.

Best Way to Learn Local Etiquette Part 2 or Best Reason to Carry a Spare Ben Franklin

After spending the day getting the papers to pick up the towed Silver Streak, and spending another two hours getting to the spetz-stoyanka, Fred found another queue. Because the Silver Streak had spent more than 24 hours at the lot, Fred would have to pay 40 rubles per hour or 160 rubles by bank transfer, and at that time of night the nearest open bank was at Vnukovo Airport. Giving up on his right and proper intentions, Fred managed to settle things po-chyelovyechyeski and freed his friend faster than you can say E Pluribus Unum.

Fastest Man on Four Wheels

Fred Jr., Wilma and I were headed home from the dacha on the Third Ring. As they headed up the overpass just past Rusakovskaya Ulitsa, a pensioner in his wheelchair was wheeling himself over the bridge in the right lane.

Fastest Man on Two Wheels

Fred had just enter the Third Ring headed north near Moscow Citi, when a bicyclist in the right lane began signaling to make his way to the far left lane. At least he was wearing a helmut.

Best Anecdote

There was a head-on collision between the black BMW of an FSB general with the black Mercedes of a general from the MVD. It was determined that the GAI officer who came to investigate was to blame for the accident.

Best Traffic Report

One morning Wilma recounted a radio report of an eight-car pile-up on the freeway bridge late the night before. Traffic police had been stopping cars, when the first vehicle was rear-ended, followed by a second. Minutes later they were joined by the rest. When the drivers turned to the GAI officers for assistance, they fled saying that this was not their territory. They were apparently poaching, a common practice, particularly late at night, used to pick up some overtime pay.

Best Reason to Stay in Bedrock

Fred didnt much notice the red car to his left as pulled into a parking space in front of the door at the Azbuka Vkusa grocery at Pokrovka on the Garden Ring. Before he could open his door, a stunning, statuesque blond strode out the door and headed straight for Fred. Was that a smile as she approached his door? And then she whispered past, around the back of the red car and into the drivers seat. As she backed out, Fred examined the glossy wax finish, the lush beige leather seats, and the Bentley emblem on the Continental GT coupe.

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