Text by Fred Flintstone
Photo by Evgeny Kollsov
The poor soul who has his car towed in Moscow has likely earned the opportunity to meet new friends in the remote Moscow district of Pechatniki, the home of the evacuated (towed) car police service. Fred didn’t listen to his inner voice when he parked along the embankment near the Radisson Slavyanskaya Hotel, just short of the new glass enclosed pedestrian bridge. He didn’t see any prohibition signs, but there were a lot of taxi drivers hanging about in their cars, a sign that they might consider this stretch of pavement to be their territory. He now thinks he got turned in.
Two hours later the search started, and then ended with a comment from a taxi driver that the evakuatoriy (tow trucks) had not long ago departed. Fred and Barney were already late for a meeting, so they crossed the street to grab a taxi to Kurskaya on the other side of the Garden Ring. The taxi driver filled us in – first call the police dispatcher at “02” and they will tell you what’s next, “Most likely its at Novobotyuninskaya; if so it’ll take you 5-6 hours minimum. You’ve got 24 hours free storage.”
A call to “02” got us referred further on to 740-3705, and this determined that the Silver Streak was at Ulitsa Ryabinovaya 71a spetzstoyanka (special parking lot) and the paper work in fact was at Novobotyuninskaya in the Pechatniki district. The documents needed to clear the vehicle were the techpassport (vehicle registration), driver’s license, dovernnost (power of attorney for driver) and proof of insurance. Since I am a foreigner, the driver’s license would have to be accompanied by a notarized translation. Fortunately, I carry the techpassport and driver’s license in my wallet, but, unfortunately, the dovernost, insurance and notarized translation were, as usual, in the car.
Back home I found a copy of the insurance policy and an extra notarized translation. A search on the Internet got me a dovernost form, which Wilma filled out and signed. But by this time in the evening I was not going to remote Pechatniki, alone, for what was likely to be an all night affair.
The next morning I prepared myself: rucksack, magazines, umbrella, snacks, water, cap, sunglasses, and downloaded the latest NPR Fresh Air podcasts to my iPod. I decided to use public transport like a local: first a bus to the metro, a change to the Green Line heading south, and then out at one of the last stations, Pechatniki. I had thought that it would be easy to fi nd such a well-known landmark, but it took four inquiries to fi nd the right bus, Number 292 or 161, which I rode practically to the end of the line, through an industrial and dismal residential area broken only by a brightly painted monastery. At the stop it took another search to find a large sign pointing towards the GAI building, and then about a mile hike.
It was not difficult to fi nd the entrance with the crowd milling in the lot in front, fully occupying the few benches and smoking up a storm. At the door I asked the usual question, “kto posledniy?” (who’s last). With those few words everyone in the vicinity knew that Fred was not a local, but it would still be several hours before we knew each other well enough to exchange personal histories. A thirty-something woman identifi ed herself and pointed out the few malchiki(boys) who were in line in front of her, and they were preceded by that woman in red. One boy explained that another had gone off to buy cigarettes but would be back. With that everyone in my section of the ocherad (line) knew his or her place. Out came a jubilant woman waving documents. “Three hours,” she said.
A queue like this in Bedrock is an amazing thing, a self-managing, living being that in this case, since the GAI post operates 24/7, has a long lifetime. The queue has defensive mechanisms; the cells of its body guard against intruders who try to sneak to the front, and the more sophisticated lines like this even develop emotions. A woman with a baby was let to the front, and later the collective bit its lip and yielded when a middle aged woman, by the look of her well-to-do, showed up claiming “she just couldn’t wait,” and waved a bandaged hand claiming an injury.
After fi nding your place, it’s now your job, a few minutes later, to answer to “kto posledniy?” Once you’ve established who’s in front by several positions and who’s behind, you’re relatively free. And this brings the first steps toward intimacy as you closely examine the clothing and features of each person, because this memory ensures your place. As the minutes and then hours tick off, you start to learn more about each: how they interact with each other, who smokes, what are their moods, and then even later who are the bright ones, the leaders, the complainers, the smart asses.
I scouted inside the door. There were about 20 people milling around a small room, about 20 square meters, with fi ve small windows along one wall. Two windows were operating. Thankfully there’s no smoking inside, but it still had a locker room atmosphere, so it was back outside for Fred. There’s a kiosk and grill a few meters to the right of the door that sells essentials: cigarettes, sunfl ower seeds, sodas, beer, Pringles. Thus began a long adventure that will be continued next month.