Install

Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Cleaning Up From the Filthy Rich

Under the birch trees on the grass in the little park outside Pizza Hut on Kutuzovsky Prospekt, a small swarm of teenagers sits on most days sipping beer and smoking cigarettes. The boys flirt with their girlfriends. They talk about last night's drinking bout. And, most importantly, they keep a constant watch on the restaurant's small parking lot, looking for newly arrived BMWs and Ladas, the dirtier the better.


For about $10, they'll gather their rags and buckets of soapless water and wash that car.


"We do this simply for the money," said Alexei Yevsyeyev, a 17-year-old with the pink-cheeked face of a 14-year-old. "Rich people don't mind paying that much money. Why should they? They're rich! Helping out a kid should be fun for them."


"Yeah, and it's easier because we're kids. They like us," added Miroslav Romanov, 15, wearing a black-hued combination of grunge, rap and hip-hop clothing.


Romanov and his friends are entrepreneurs. Driving a dirty car in Moscow is illegal, and Russia businessmen and foreigners would just as soon pay for the wash than pay the police fine, which can be anywhere from 18,000 to 40,000 rubles ($3.60 to $8), depending on the policeman, the boys said.


At the Pizza Hut parking lot, five boys hold the car-wash territory but Miroslav and Alexei are the only ones who are there all year round and every day, typically from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. In the summer they smoke L&M cigarettes and sip Faxe beer in the shade. In the winter, they drink vodka and run back and forth from the bathroom at Kentucky Fried Chicken or Pizza Hut to change the already freezing water for hot water.


"I respect them for working with their own hands and making money," said Alexei's girlfriend, Sveta Pylnova, 14, as she took a drag on a cigarette. The boys wash anywhere from two to 12 cars a day, each making 100,000 rubles to 600,000 rubles, depending on the past week's weather. If it has rained recently, business is bad.


Alexei, who said he supports his mother and grandmother with his income, started washing cars two years ago after he was thrown out of school for "hooliganism."


"I did the usual things. I wrote on the walls, beat up little kids, and stole their breakfast money. I set the director's office on fire," he said in a matter-of-fact tone. "It was all just for fun and I was bored."


The school's director, contacted Wednesday, said Alexei's surname was familiar but she couldn't remember what kind of student he had been.


A few months after Alexei, Miroslav was also kicked out of the same school for hooliganism and joined Alexei on the corner. Neither of them regret it, they said. They now have money to buy new clothes and beer, to hang out with their friends and to bring home groceries for their families.


"You see, in Moscow, people don't need an education," Alexei said. "Look at all those people going to school, going to university, sitting for hours listening to history and stuff like that. What is there for them after that? They're going to be out here washing cars too."


"And politics, what can we possibly say about politics? We're kids, and all the grownups decide those things for us," Alexei continued. "But the Communists shouldn't win. Things are better now. There are actually things to buy, which is why we're out here working for money. Sure it's tough for some people. One person is richer, and one person is poorer. Those people who are poorer, they should go out and work like we do. What's to stop them?"


Sooner or later, though, Alexei would like to leave the parking lot and become a mechanic. Miroslav is also bored with the washing stint, but he doesn't know what comes next. He said there's no way he'll be there a year from now. But then again, he said, if he waits an hour or so, there will always be another $10 driving into the lot.