Jul
29
2010

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Breaking the Law: Moscow Bound, Part Two

by Tyler

Back at the car, a crushing front of heat pours from either side when we open its doors. Cringing a bit, we roll down the driver and passenger windows, crank open the moon roof, and crack the rear windows as far as they will allow. None of it is much help in this unholy heat. Oh well.

We hop inside, fish around for a bottle of water that isn't piping hot, fail, and then take turns guzzling the unrefreshing warm liquid as we begin driving again. Once we're moving, with the wind in our faces, we are much more comfortable.

We get a little disoriented on the way back to the M10 (the highway leading to Moscow). Realizing we're heading in the wrong direction, I turn off on a minor residential road to circle back. Cars are parked on either side of the narrow street. As I gingerly squeeze through the passage, we creep past a junky looking Russian police car, an AvtoVAZ Zhiguli (I think).

We are almost to the end of the block when a siren behind us belches a short "BRRRUPPPP BRURRRP!" I look at Tara, and we hesitate for a moment asking, "Was that for us? Did we do something wrong?" The car doesn't seem to be moving. Uncertain, I shrug and turn right onto a main road. We're continuing towards the highway when I glance in the rear view mirror.

The police are a few cars back, swerving aggressively around the people behind us, presumably to pull us over. Yikes! I've barely turned into a parking lot when the police, lights flashing, screech to a halt in front of us, their vehicle perpendicular to ours. Tara and I look at each other, bemused. As the officers approach, I calmly retrieve the ream of documentation we're carrying with us.

We've been told that the best way to react in this situation is to play dumb. We are foreigners, and we don't speak or understand ANY Russian. So, instead of my normal go-to phrase "Ya nyegavaru pa rrruskie!" (I don't speak Russian), when the officer saunters over to the driver's side of our LRC, I simply smile brightly.

When he says something that sounds to me like gibberish, I respond with a slightly apologetic tone, "I'm sorry, I don't speak Russian!" He is now flustered, and I calmly and generously inundate him with several driving licenses, and a mountain of paperwork. "Hrm…", he says. Then, he motions for me to follow him.

Tara, who has been unconcerned up to this point, now has wide scared eyes, and is trying to communicate with me telepathically. I send her a reassuring glance, and follow the cop to his car. He motions to the back seat, so I open the door and sit, one leg in, one leg out. I'm not sure why we're in the car, and judging by the confused looks, shrugging, and quiet conversation between the officer and his partner in front of me, neither are they.

Each time they ask me a question, I look as repentant and docile as I can manage while saying calmly, "I'm sorry, I don't understand?" After a few minutes, one of the officers opens a briefcase and takes out a book full of driving regulations and motions for me to look. He points at a red circle with an X on it and, as best I can tell, tries to explain that this means the road is one-way.

I know this sign, but I don't remember seeing it. Whatever. I nod emphatically and say, "OOOOhhhh" with big eyes. Then, I make a pointing motion one direction and shake my head vigorously as I point in the opposite, trying to convey that I would never do this again. The officer responds by pointing at my ID. I don't know what he is trying to say, so I just maintain a sheepish look and wait.

After several minutes more of talking and shrugging between the two officers, they begin handing me back my paperwork. I shrug, and point out the door in a "so, I can go now?" sort of gesture. They shrug and look at each other, still confused, and respond with a gesture that says to me "sure, I guess so."

Safely back in our LRC, I fill Tara in on what happened. We then laugh, confirming that I was correct in reading her wide-eyed expression as "DO NOT shut that car door, make sure you know what the hell they want with you before you go ANYWHERE, and there is NO WAY they are driving off with you in the backseat, leaving me here, keyless and ID-less with no way of communicating with you in Russia!"

All is well, and I am beaming from my encounter with the police, pleased that my acting had left them befuddled. I didn't even have to play our trump card of, "Call the US Embassy? US Embassy?" Paying careful attention to the traffic on the road, I pull back into the fray, we drive on towards Moscow.


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