Thursday, October 08, 2009
Another Russian Adventure.
Today while showing Dutch friends a bit of our city we seemed to have parked in a no parking zone and as a result our car was towed away by the police! This was distressing as we had friends whom we needed to be with, it was raining, and we needed to take our friends to teach at a marriage seminar in just a few hours.
Having never had our car towed before we had to call several Russian friends and ask what to do. We were told that first we needed figure out which lot our car had been towed to, go to the storage lot (by bus), identify our car, prove that it was ours with multiple documents and then we would receive a piece of paper from them. We would then have to cross the city to take this paper to the central police department, show them all our identification, passport, drivers license, car documents, etc. and they would complete some more paperwork, stamp it with an official stamp, we would of course pay a fine, and only then could we return to the storage lot and present this paper and retrieve our car. We apologized to our friends and showed them how to walk back to their hotel and off we went to find our car.
We had an idea where it may have been taken so we took a local bus to the general location, but had to walk for a while trying to find it. It was amusing when I stopped one young man and said, "excuse me, I am a foreigner and I don't speak Russian very well, can you help me?" He laughed and said, "I don't speak Russian very well either." He was from one of the southern provinces himself and wasn't a native Russian. We asked several people on the street to help us and finally found someone who knew where we needed to go and so off we went again by foot.
We found our car, received the necessary paperwork and then had to find a way across town to the central police station. It was evening rush hour so we decided for the sake of expediency to hire a taxi. The driver was a nice guy and interested that we were Americans. He drove us across town and when we arrived he said to us that he would wait for us and then drive us back to get our car.
At the police station I asked one young police man to help me and he just laughed and asked for my documents when he realized my Russian was terrible. After reading everything and asking me where I was from, he took us into the station, gave our papers to someone else and said, "wait here." In about 10 minutes another guy came out, handed us the completed paperwork and told us we could go. No fine, no payment, no trouble. We were surprised.
So, back in the taxi and an amazingly quick trip across town during rush hour we got to the storage lot and the taxi driver says, much to our surprise, that he would wait to make sure we got our car. The reason we were so surprised is because in this culture strangers simply do not help each other. The storage lot manager was another nice guy helping us to fill out all the forms (Russia loves paperwork) and then asked me to sign my name and we were free to go.
We were astonished. In a country that thrives in bureaucracy and making life unpleasant for its inhabitants we were able to retrieve our car in a little over two hours and didn't have to pay any fine for the towing. Life in Russia is always challenging, sometimes stressful and then you get some really interesting breaks as you see the favor of God working for you. So, happily, ended another Russian adventure.