Babies Work Wonders In Queues, GAI Stops

Being pregnant and bringing up children in Moscow is by no means all doom and gloom. Indeed there are distinct advantages.

In an advanced stage of my last pregnancy, for example, I was waiting in line to pick up some photographs when various women in the queue started hurling abuse at me.

What they were in fact telling me was that I shouldn't be standing in line at all but should have gone straight to the front.

Being terribly English I find it difficult to push forward like this -- with one glaring exception: Sheremetyevo 2.

If you have babies or toddlers in your arms when you arrive at the airport go straight to the "diplomats only" channel and hang around looking flustered, at which point you will immediately be ushered through -- ahead, even, of any waiting diplomats.

When we took 9-month-old Vita on an all-Russian-except-me package tour to the Canaries, on the way out, due to the fact I was surrounded by Russians, I forgot I was in Spain and went straight to the head of the queue.

A surly Spanish woman refused to let us through out of turn despite the fact that the baby clearly needed to feed.

"Please ask these people," I announced grandly, gesturing to our 200-odd fellow travelers, "if any one of them minds my taking the baby through first."

There followed a tense moment, like when you're waiting for objections during a wedding ceremony, but with immense pride for my adopted country I heard only protestations of support and no dissent -- to the fury of the Canarian border guard who had just proved herself too sour even for a job at Aeroflot.

But the biggest advantages of babies in Russia are vis-?-vis the GAI.

For maximum effect you preferably need a crying baby, most children, however, can be quickly trained by the association method: Pinch them hard the first few times a GAI officer approaches your car and they will soon burst into tears spontaneously at the mere sight of a white baton.

Wind down your window -- on no account get out of your car, i.e. away from the noise -- then as the GAI officer is trying to elicit his bribe keep turning distractedly to your crying child while shouting sincere respectful apologies to the officer that you simply can't hear above the din.

Even the toughest won't be able to stand much of this, but in fact you'll rarely have to go this far -- mostly the noise that greets him as you wind down the window is enough to prompt a hasty salute and instructions to get on your way.