Thursday, January 31, 2008


This is "sklyakat": icky, oily, muddy slush. For a good part of the year, we have to walk in and around it. Oh, yes... And we DRIVE in it. When it melts, the streets are coated in thick, brown water that splatters EVERYWHERE. Your pants and coats get drops of it all over them. I'm quite relieved that I no longer have a toddler who repeatedly falls in it... That was quite a sight to see--and clean up! Nevertheless, both girls have two complete sets of outwear since one is often being washed.

Until we got a car, I didn't realize how hard the "sklyakat" makes it to drive! It whips up and coats all the windows, making it quite hard to see. It also coats the headlights--but gradually, so you don't realize how thick the dirt is until you turn on the lights and can't tell if they're working.

These lovely layers of mud are rather hard to clean off when they combine with ice and freeze all over the windows. I scrape off what I can, but as the windows warm, the remaining mud then melts. Kate pointed out that you also need to be sure to wipe off the license plates now that a new law took effect on January 1st that all plates must always be clean. As Kate also remarked, thank God they didn't mandate that the whole car must always be clean, too! Impossible! (That didn't stop the cops from giving me a hard time about my dirty car in November, though...)

We need to get the car washed once a week to keep it passably clean--clean enough so that we're not covered in grime by opening the doors, and clean enough to drive safely. Sometimes, though, the car is filthy again within an hour of having left the car wash! THAT is frustrating...

Since getting your car washed is such a necessity, there are often very long lines outside of the carwashes. It can take hours to get it done. If I can wait another day, I do... And I try again when the line isn't so long. To get the outside washed and the inside vacuumed costs about $35. But there are times when you have to get get it done right then and there because it has become too dangerous to drive--and then you're stuck waiting it out.

A little industry of carwash/cafes has sprung up; you can go inside while waiting for your car. I did just that on Monday evening, waiting an hour and a half until it was ready. Three days later, this is what the car already looks like!

Kind of makes you wonder about what you're breathing.

And no wonder the windows to the apartment get so coated in grime that whatever sunshine there is gets quite distorted! This also helps to explain why you need to wash the floors at least four times a week in order to keep the apartment clean; the grime just gets in somehow. (It was like that where we lived in Brooklyn, too; we were next to the expressway).

The girls sometimes play a game, trying to guess what color cars are beneath their coats of dirt. When drivers let weeks go by without washing their cars, you really can't tell what colors they actually are!

So how often do you wash your cars?


Dina said...

Okay, this will be painful to hear. Our full-time gardener washes the car every morning. On Saturdays, he vacuums it out and windexes the windows. We pay him $120 a month. Are you sure you don't want to move to West Africa?

Rachael said...

Well, I'm embarrassed to say, we don't wash our cars all that often! We should...but, just get lazy and then a couple weeks pass and you start to look pretty shabby and then: drive around the corner, (about 1/2 a mile), where there is maybe one car (but usually none) in line, pay 6 dollars, drive through in about 5 minutes, and come home. Geez, why don't I do that more often??? I guess I'd never cut it in Moscow! :)

Annie said...

Never wash the car; just hope for rain. I was rewarded; yesterday Sergei complimented me on having washed the car. (hehe)

Tina in CT said...

Believe me, I wonder all the time what the environment is doing to your health by living there.

I was shocked on my drive from the Moscow airport to your apt. I'd never seen such filthy cars. It looked like they'd been sprayed with mud that caked on. Our taxi's front window was clean where the wipers reach. The back of my boots and slacks were covered with spots from our daily outings.

Here at home, I don't even need my boots the day after a snowstorm as the parking lot at work is clean and dry.

I went to the car wash a few days ago and I was the only car there.

Katya said...

Umm... never. I can't ever seem to justify spending the money on washing my car... it is just going to get dirty again, right? And isn't that what rain is for? Occasionally I use that nasty blue water while I am filling up my car to clean the windshield and lights. :-P

Nataliya said...

Ha-ha! I only wash my car a couple of times every winter season and only to wash off the salt! We have quite a lot of snow in upstate NY and the roads are covered in salt to help with the ice. Last week my facilitator in Kiev apologized to me profusely because he didn't have time to wash his car! I just laughed and told him not to worry.

Debip said...

Chicago winters cause me to wash more often...lots of salt on the roads causing the colors of the cars to be disguised like the spring and summer and fall...I do it about 2 times a month with a good wash in and out twice a year.

Anonymous said...

I just realized what the word slyakat is it is slyakot with soft sound at the end - I do remember this thing so have no idea what it does to the car - we never had a car in USSR

Christine said...

I wash my van about four times a year.

What I am still amazed at is how brave you are to drive in Moscow! I wouldn't even try it if I was paid.

Annie said...

Actually, I was thinking that myself. If I lived in Moscow I would become quite svelte from walking everywhere! (And that, I've discovered, is quite dangerous enough for anyone!)