The voice of protest, of warning, of appeal is never more needed than when the clamor of fife and drum, echoed by the press and too often by the pulpit, is bidding all men fall to fall in and keep step and obey in silence the tyrannous word of command. Then, more than ever, it is the duty of the good citizen not to be silent.
~ Charles Eliot Norton (True Patriotism)
Today is the Day of the Military Automobilists, which might be running a dead second in terms of popularity, did it not share today with the Day of Veterans of the Custom’s Service. Today’s holiday is the tenth since it’s official ratification in 2000, marking the day in 1910 when the first Russian Automobile Corps was founded in Saint Petersburg.
Anyone who has ever been to Moscow is familiar with olive green army trucks belching toxic fumes, affixiating the exhausted looking 18 year old military recruits they are ferrying from one construction sight to another. This is the Army Auto Corps helping to keep Moscow’s streets at a total standstill from dawn ‘til midnight, Monday through Saturday.
Driving in Russia is traditionally a boy’s bailiwick; it really is the ideal outlet for the Russian alpha male to channel his own inner Alexander Nevsky. The disturbing fusion of not-the-brightest-men-God-ever-put-on-the-planet, and way too much horsepower, turns driving into a primeval contact sport in Moscow, with its own very specific playbook. Woe Betide the uninitiated knucklehead who ignores the highway hierarchy. Brand and size rule these roads; by universal unspoken agreement, a Mercedes enjoys the inherent moral right to rudely cut off a Ford who, in turn, is entitled to nose into an adjacent lane, without the burden of signaling, cutting off a box-shaped Russian-made Lada. The poor Lada driver can assert dominance only over the darker-skinned or female drivers of other Ladas. How I absorbed this information, I do not know. Osmosis, I suppose. But this I know to be true: my ozone-slashing Land Rover Discovery beats a Volvo SUV or Subaru Forester, but I deferentially cede the road to a BMW stretch sedan or Porsche Cayenne. Hummers fly off the shelves here, and it’s easy to see why. Very little trumps a Hummer.
Some drivers are more equal than others. We are all supposed to get out of the way of anyone sporting a blue siren on the top of his vehicle. This siren, called a meegalka, emits a noise I’ve never heard anywhere else but Russia, best described as a nuclear submarine with a bad sinus infection. “Mbuhooooooooiiiiiiggggghhhhhhhh:” fanfare for an uncommon hegemony. In total gridlock, they fire up the meegalka and attempt to forge a path through solid blocks of cars. If in a greater hurry than usual, or if the meegalka fails to dislodge total gridlock, the privileged ease their way onto the double yellow line, which, the theory goes, separates northbound and southbound traffic. Into this too-narrow channel, they switch on the sinus infection and “Mbuhooooooooiiiiiiggggghhhhhhhh!” their German car speeds away at 250 kilometers per hour.
It used to be that any tin-pot minigarch wannabe with 5,000 USD and an ego the size of Kazakhstan, could get a blue light, but a grass roots movement is looking to change that, and they may just succeed. On the heels of an unfortunate head on collision by a blue light and a female OBYGYN on her way to a delivery, and some other abuses of power by the blue light brigade, a protest movement is gaining momentum as motorist affix powder blue toy buckets on the top of private cars in protest of the blue lights. Check out this video and decide for yourself…
Congratulations to all of Russia's Army Automobile Corps!
Author's Note: Photograph from The Daily Telegraph's online archive, published on Google.
This post is part of The Stunt
Today is also Day of the Veterans of the Customs Service. The veterans, mind you, not the actual guys who do the actual job. What will they think of next? Bookmark "Dividing My Time" to find out!