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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

What the GAI Does to Keep The Roads Safe

Last week I wrote about driving even though I had vowed I would never do so. Here I go again.

Why? Because of a very good friend of mine, whose woes with the GAI are so pitiful I decided they deserved some telling. This woman is not the type to be daunted or fooled by Moscow's traffic police. She is a hardened Muscovite and knows well how to grease the wheels -- pardon the pun -- of the dreaded GAI. Now she has had the experience that may finally send her home. Here's a blow-by-blow account:

Sept. 9: Cruising innocently through central Moscow in her well-tuned Niva, my friend is waved over by a menacing-looking inspektor who demands to check her exhaust emission. As KamAZ trucks belch by, the inspector fines her for high CO2 levels, refuses all offers of money and gifts, and takes her license plate away.

Sept. 12: Hoping to get her plate back, my friend makes the 40-minute drive in her plateless Niva to the GAI inspection center on Kashirskoye Shosse. She is first directed to pay a 30-ruble (yes, 30 rubles) fine at the local sberkassa, where she waits 35 minutes in line. She returns to the GAI only to be told by another menacing-looking inspektor that she won't get her plate back until her car passes inspection, which means getting a fire extinguisher and first-aid kit, eliminating some microscopic bits of rust, and replacing the car's front grill. She cries, but the inspektor is coldly unsympathetic.

Sept. 26: Back to Kashirskoye Shosse. This time she cannot pass inspection because she has studded winter tires but the inspection floor is still in summer mode. She goes to Stockmann and orders tires.

Sept. 28: Picks up the new tires.

Sept. 29: Drives the plateless car all the way to a garage on Shchyolkovskoye Shosse, where the emission problem is finally fixed. Suddenly, though, she needs a new parking brake.

Oct. 1: Drives to the Kuntsevo car parts market, buys a parking brake, then drives back to Shchyolkovskoye Shosse. On the way, she has to explain to three more menacing GAI inspektors that the only way to get the car fixed is to drive it to the garage, plate or no plate.

Oct.7: Back to Kashirskoye Shosse. Now the rear brakes are uneven, the steering wheel moves too easily, and the headlights are unaligned.

Oct. 8: Sholkovskoye Shosse. For the headlight problem, she is sent to the Gagarinsky garage in southwest Moscow.

Oct. 10: Kashirskoye Shosse. Emission levels are too high again. A bald, red-faced inspektor says he wouldn't pass the car even if she had been there 20 times. She cries.

Oct. 12: On the way back from the Solntsevo auto parts market, the GAI threatened to take her documents for driving with no plate. She cries and, for once, they take pity.

Nov. 10: Mounts her final attack on Kashirskoye Shosse. It is Militia Day, though, and the menacing cop is off celebrating. By some miracle, a kinder, gentler inspektor appears who listens to her sob story and gives the plate back.

Nov. 13: Two miles from home, her transmission fails. The car will drive only in reverse. Not wanting to let a little thing like that stop her, this friend revs up and backs all the way home, through perilously busy intersections and roads. There are plenty of GAI out there, but she is not stopped once.