I used to drive a car before I moved to Russia and gave it up with good reason. Russians don’t have a clue about road rules, though the driver’s tests they have to take are extremely long and tedious, but of no use. Any large city has a huge problem with traffic jams, and Moscow is no exception. Only the Russians handle this problem differently. If there’s a four-lane highway, that means you can fit at least five cars abreast, plus you can add other cars on either side using the emergency pullover lane and the meridian, thus creating a 7- or 8-lane highway! Voila!
I’ve had my share of riding in cars and taxis and have made it around traffic jams in some of the most outrageous ways, usually with my eyes closed. One way around a nasty traffic jam in the downtown area is to just take the sidewalk, much fewer cars are there and pedestrians for some strange reason feel obliged to yield to you. Another way around a problem area is just to cut through a city park or through numerous courtyards filled with children playing on teeter-totters and swings. Hey, it’s Moscow and we’re all in a hurry!
However, just recently I was on a public bus returning home from work during rush hour traffic. The bus I was on travels down the MKAD (Moscow Ring Road), which is a highway that encircles the city, as the name implies. Traffic was really moving at a snail’s pace and I knew that I’d probably make it home in around three hours. The trip from door to door usually takes around 40 minutes if there’s no traffic.
Little did I know that I ended up with the “Ace of all bus drivers,” who was such a speedster and road hog. Stuck in the far right-hand lane of the freeway and crawling alongside long-haul trucks, delivery trucks and other “wide loads,” my “Ace” turned out to be the sliest of them all. Now you have to picture this…
We’re putting along and reach the cabin of one of those long-haul trucks and the bus driver pulls the bus so close that his driver’s side mirror slowly smacks the truck driver’s right-side mirror, making it impossible for the truck driver to see what’s going on behind him. The truck driver then stops and steps out of his truck, screaming obscenities at the bus driver to adjust his mirror again, while the bus driver takes full advantage of the situation and slides in front of the space that opened up from the truck driver stopping, reaches out with his left hand and adjusts his left-side mirror, not having to leave the cabin at all. BRILLIANT!
At first, I thought this was just by accident until he did it again and a third time! UNBELIEVABLE! That was one of the most innovative ways I’ve ever seen a driver get through a traffic jam and to think that drivers for public transportation are just as slimy as the rest of those drivers out there.
In all, we shaved off probably 10 minutes from the trip, not much at all, but I was still thankful to him that he was thinking of “my time” stuck in traffic.