Saturday, January 16, 2010

Road Rage

It has been a really intense week. The piles of snow along the roads have reduced parking by about 40% (in the neighborhoods where I live/work) and have made it harder for cars to slip by one another.

Many two-way roads in the city are effectively one-way since cars park on either side, "removing" one lane; this leads to "Who's gonna back up and get out of the way?" scenarios all the time. Usually such situations are resolved rather quickly and amicably; there's really nothing anyone can do to avoid them, so you simply move and then get on with your day.

Not on Tuesday.

I turned onto a side street in front of our school and this Mercedes came speeding towards me, blinking its lights. It could easily have lost control on the icy road and crashed right into me. It also sped UP as it came towards me. I couldn't back up and get out of its way without backing blindly into oncoming traffic on a busy street.

The Mercedes, however, had four different driveways to choose from, and could easily have let me pass. Which it didn't. The driver was angry before our vehicles were even nose-to-nose. Uh, sorry I couldn't just evaporate once he flashed those lights at me... His gestures were so offensive and mean that I just sat there patiently, conveying that I wasn't going anywhere since I couldn't. I motioned to two places where he could back up and out of the road. I motioned to the speed of oncoming traffic behind me.

He wasn't having any of it. So I pointed at my watch, shrugged to show I'd wait as long as it took, and slowly sipped my coffee, relaxing in the car.

This sent him over the edge. He stormed out of his car, ran over to my window, screamed at me and literally punched my windows. He wanted me to roll down the window, which I obviously would not do. I shouted why I couldn't back up safely and asked him to back up about 12 feet to the driveway behind him.

He realized I was a foreigner, probably American, and started to yell, "Get out of here, American. Get off this road and get out of our country!" He had quite a few other choice things to add. To put this in context, you do NOT swear at women in Russia. It is infinitely more taboo and insulting to use bad language about/to a woman here. (It's worth mentioning, however, the man himself wasn't even ethnically Russian. I think he was from one of the -stan former republics of the USSR.)

At this point two BIG men in suits got out of the car and surrounded me, one leaning over the windshield and one on the passenger side.

I realized I was in way over my head and I called the head of the high school. My first class was about to start, and I asked her to look out her window... Our little spat was now affecting traffic on four streets, with cars backed up in all directions.

I got the help I needed, I got by the man who had to back up (I can only imagine the rate at which his blood was boiling) and I managed--after ten minutes--to find a parking spot... By the time I finally ran into class, I almost burst into tears. I must say, however, that the kids really behaved that day...!

Two days later I watched as one driver jumped out of his car and punched another. The second guy had had the nerve to be in a "right-hand-turn" lane when he planned to go straight. Ah, the gall!

This all started to build up inside me--along with "ARGH!" living-in-Moscow-moments-- and then I kind of "lost it" this morning in a rather unbelievable way... (Don't worry, nothing serious happened as a result). Coming up in another post...


The Expatresse said...

Oh, poor you. Hugs. I was just reflecting on a "Oh, the Kindness of Strangers" blog entry I want to try to write today.

Amusingly, my word verification word is "cabbi."

Tina in CT said...

Since I can't use profanity or ethnic slurs in your blog, this will be my comment.

Tami said...

Ack! How scary! So glad you're alright and you had some friends who could come to your rescue! :)

Cecelia said...

Oh - no! That's terrible. I wouldn't have known what to do. You certainly were brave. I'm thankful that everything turned out O.K. and you are safe.

The suspense of waiting for your next blog . . . to read the continuation . . .

Anonymous said...

Is there is any way you can take Metro to work?
All this traffic rage sounds so stressful and dangerous. Unlike your mother, I can post anything that comes to my mind on your post:
Who are those people who can afford the Mercedes? I do not trust them, I would like you to stay as far from them as possible - take a Metro!

Annie said... I have thought to myself previously (and perhaps written, too), if I had the luck to live in Moscow, I'd be very THIN and FIT because I would WALK everywhere. Actually, I think it would simplify my life, too....I think of all the things we do, because we have a car, so we CAN.

But, I could NOT live through that sort of stress...the kind I have to live through on Michigan roads is bad enough!

オテモヤン said...


Natalie said...

sounds like I don't have anything to complain about when I'm driving around here anymore! I think swearing at a lady SHOULD be taboo! Here, there, everywhere! Sounds like someone needs to go to anger management or suffer from a severe heart attack some day!

Natalie said...

sounds like I don't have anything to complain about when I'm driving around here anymore! I think swearing at a lady SHOULD be taboo! Here, there, everywhere! Sounds like someone needs to go to anger management or suffer from a severe heart attack some day!

Felix said...

It's interesting that you mention the fact that it's taboo to swear at women. I grew up in Belarus and know many ethnic Russians, and it's widely known that Russian women are thought of as the WAY lesser half, and it is perfectly natural for a man to swear at and hit his wife, etc.