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Monday, May 16, 2005


An interesting experiment

Yesterday morning, we were a wee bit early for a brunch that ended up lasting until 10 pm, so the Producer made his first attempt to navigate the Neva through Baku traffic. We've got some friends coming to visit (first ones! But they've been here before. They almost don't count) and the Producer has to be competent behind the wheel since I'll be in the States.

After doing donuts in the empty concrete plain of Freedom Square, he pulled into traffic. We had not gone a half block before he got pulled over by the cops.

The traffic police have these brand new slick VW sedans and I swear there is one on every street corner. I don't know what they're for, since traffic laws are completely arbitrary. Just 10 minutes before we'd seen a black mercedes run a red right right in front of a carful of cops. When they want you to stop, they don't turn on sirens or lights. They yell at you through loudspeakers.

Of course, The Producer had done nothing wrong. He'd barely even shifted into second gear.

So, we did the old, "Salaam Alekium. Nope. Sorry. Don't speak Russian. Don't speak Azeri. Take these documents. Smile." He had no choice but to wave us on. Cops pick easy targets for bribes and the secret is to be neither in a hurry nor be combative.

During the last three months I have driven this Neva halfway across this country without once getting pulled over. The secret to keeping the fuzz out of your hair may be letting the girl drive.

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