Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Surviving in a Russian car

First of all, many cars have the steering wheel on the right. My initial thought was that they must be mail cars, but no – they are simply cars that have been imported from Japan. They are not exactly legal, so to discourage people from buying them, they introduced higher taxes on such “machines.” Overall, they are still cheaper, and so quite popular. (the citizens belonging to the upper (affluent) class would rather pay more and get a European car, though.) Then there is the seatbelt issue. According to the law, the driver and the passenger in the front should wear them, and most Russians would rather not get a ticket (I have heard that it’s better to say away from the police here). But it’s the ticket threat alone that makes them wear it – when I put on the seatbelt in the back, people laugh at me. It’s like this country is full of my ex-husband’s grandmothers (his refused to wear the seatbelt; she’d also disregard red lights (why stop if nobody is coming?) and claim it was impossible for her to have had an accident (“How could I hit him if I didn’t see him?”)). And OF COURSE there are no lanes, and driving around town is like competing in a car race. After a ride with one of Katya’s girlfriends this afternoon I am convinced that going 85 on I-80 from Park City is very SAFE – as long as I don’t smell burning tires and there is no city bus stopping right in front of us when we are rushing to make the green light. Ok, well, I bet those of you who have traveled to places like India think I am being a drama queen. But really, having grown up in a country that is barely becoming civilized itself, I think this is a jungle!

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