Saturday, 24 May 2014
Traffic in Moscow is amazing
I entered the arrivals area of Terminal three to the usual throng of waiting family and friends and looked for my ride. He was not to be found. So I made my way to some benches and set myself up to wait, enjoying a fair amount of people watching. Sitting there, I must have looked like low hanging fruit as the amassed taxi drivers kept approaching me, viewing the stacked luggage like a junkie views a spoon. I politely waved them off or spoke in Russian politely, the two words I’d learned to deal with airport types. “Nyet Spasibo." No thanks.
However, they were persistent and I was forced to abandon my rudimentary Russian for English to explain that the driver knew I had lots of luggage and it wouldn’t be a problem.
This use of English quickly rang the bell to those around me that I wasn’t Russian. Something I like to avoid in new countries as it has many far-reaching, and potentially dangerous results. The most annoying of which is what I call the “Lemming” effect. Two people nearby immediately walked over, got close, and started talking to one another and trying to engage me in English. This cultural same same grouping behaviour is exactly what you shouldn’t do. An Airport is a long grassy field. The tall yellow swaying grass hiding the lions that are sure to be there. You’ve just got off a long flight, you are tired, confused and packing a great deal of good stuff. Nothing personal but at this point you’re just food and you’re the weakest one in the group.
So I got up and moved away from this clucking mass of perhaps soon to be statistics. People who would claim later that they don’t how anyone knew they had X explaining to cops that could care less, not because they’re lazy, but because you rang the dinner bell. Cops all over the world hate stupid people about as much as they do the ones that pray on them. Difference is in some countries they don’t hide it so the average Joe can tell.
My ride showed up a few seconds after I moved. His apology two words “Crazy Traffic.” I followed him outside pushing my towering set of bags toward his car. It was a beautiful black G65 AMG Mercedes and it was already gathering a crowd of admirers. I pushed past some of the taxi drivers that had earlier tried to engage me resisting the desire to ask if they thought my luggage would fit now. I jumped into the front seat and took the time to openly admire the vehicle. Paying careful attention to be respectful but not drool. My driver was a man of little words, noticed my attention and only said “Spasibo.”
We shot off into traffic and I noticed he had a high definition dash cam pointing out the front and two cell phones. One phone was being used exclusively for traffic updates. “So” I thought, “How could this guy have been late?” My answer came in a few short seconds.
Traffic moves in a pattern that probably mimics the forces and motion involved in the Big Bang. The lines painted on the roads are purely for decoration and this confusion moves in all directions at the same time with only centimeters of separation. Try as I might I could not discern why some cars where jumping into one lane or another. Horns reserved for drivers that dare touch their brakes. While I knew some higher end vehicles had proximity alarms to warn the driver of low fences or dropped bikes I had yet to hear one. In Russian traffic, the sensor beeped like a teenagers cell phone on Friday afternoon. We careened through this deadly looking ballet my guy seeming not to notice close cars or very quickly diminishing angles of entry to off ramps or on ramps. What struck me most about it was everyone looked to be quite calm. No one was in a rage or making gestures at anyone. They were only concentrating on the drive and getting where they needed to be. It dawned on me at that point that the reason for this chaos was necessity and everyone was attempting to cooperate to get home. One accident could tie up a large section of the city for a very long time. So stupid behaviour got a long horn and then blocked out to the curb as no one would let you in. Stupid or inattentive drivers need not apply.