. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

American Money Conquers the GAI

This is a true story. It happened a few days ago and even though my wife doesn't believe me, I hope you will.

At about 4 p.m. I was driving down Leninsky Prospekt toward downtown and I landed in a traffic jam on the Bolshoi Kammeny bridge. The jam wasn't enormous but I was late for a very important meeting, so I did something very silly -- I drove very quickly into the lane of oncoming traffic, hoping to switch back into my lane at the end of the bridge, right in front of the traffic light, so I could save myself some time. My attempt to save time was a dismal failure. It took me too long to get back into the proper lane and I ended up in the clutches of the traffic police officer who always stands in front of the entrance to the Kremlin at the Borovitskiye Gate.

Well, you can be sure that I made that police officer's day. Very slowly, he started walking around my car and threatening me. Did I know that I had just committed a major violation of the traffic rules and regulations? That will cost 20,000 rubles ($4). And, oh yes, your car is very dirty. According to the rules of the Moscow City Government, you will have to pay another 20,000. And, my goodness, you have Belorussian license plates without a temporary registration in Moscow. I think I will have to take away your driving license and registration plates.

After listening to this monologue for several minutes I was almost convinced that I was a hardened criminal who deserved to spend the next several years in prison. Still, all such monologues eventually come to an end. The officer said that the amnesty for my accumulated crimes was 50,000 rubles. I looked in my wallet and realized I only had a 100,000-ruble bill. I did see, however, some American money -- six $1 bills -- so I asked the officer if he would be so kind as to accept my American money. With this seemingly simple question, the police officer's face was transformed. Almost immediately, he asked me whether I was driving toward Ulitsa Novy Arbat. I replied in the positive and the officer told me to move on. He then stopped the traffic with one stroke of his black-and-white magic wand. I jumped into my car and drove off, realizing as I sped off that three black Volgas with blue flashing lamps and government license plates were waiting for the police wand to allow them to enter the Kremlin.

What excellent service I received for a paltry $6. Now I'm wondering: If I had given him $50 and told him I needed to go directly into the Kremlin, would that have been possible?