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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

West May Find Warm Welcome to СWard 6Т

I hailed a gypsy cab on my way home from work one night this week. But, as the driver spied the enormous crush of cars on Leningradsky Prospekt near Dynamo metro station, he turned off of Leningradsky to the right, then made an immediate left. I then noticed one of those red "brick" road signs, meaning we were headed the wrong way down a one-way street.

"Uh, are we supposed to be going this way?" I asked.

"I donТt want to waste time," he said, bringing to bear the native wisdom, yesli nelzya no ochen khochetsya, to mozhno (if you arenТt supposed to do something but really want to, then you can).

This sentiment raises a question broached recently on this page about this countryТs society: Is it ready for the "dictatorship of law" that President Vladimir Putin says he wants to be the guiding principle for the nation? And what makes Westerners associated with Russia think that our ideas Ч on the perfect law-abiding society, on "commitment to transparency" in government or business Ч will be grafted easily onto this societyТs skin? I often think that Russia will affect us more than we will affect it.

I am reminded of the time many years ago when I took a trip to Tula with three other women working at the U.S. Embassy. In those days, you wouldnТt dream of stepping an inch outside Moscow without the requisite "dip note," an official request for travel. We four had done it all right Ч we had the dip note approved, and we bought our train tickets through the official channels. Then we met at the train station just before our departure. After showing our passports, visas and tickets to the conductress, we entered the train, made our way to our compartment and settled down for a pleasant trip.

Then Randy (whose name has been changed to protect the guilty) appeared. Randy was a colleague from the embassy, but he was the fifth wheel on this cart, and we were amazed to see him. "How did you get on the train?" we asked. Randy said he had just walked on. At that moment, the train lurched forward, and, dip note or not, Randy was headed for Tula.

We closed the door and consulted hurriedly among ourselves. "What do we do?" someone asked. "We only have four tickets." I quickly looked around and eyed the overhead luggage compartment. I was still a slip of a girl, and I suggested, "Someone could climb up there; then the conductress will see only four people." I quickly climbed up into the small space to show my compatriots how easy it would be.

Just then, there was a knock at the door. Real-ly. "Bilety, pozhaluista [tickets, please]," the conductress asked as she threw the door open. My four traveling companions were dumbstruck, not because they doubted my plan would work, but because they didnТt know where I had put my ticket. Someone proffered the three tickets they had in hand and suggested the conductress come back when we had found the fourth.

"Pozhaluista," she said cheerfully and moved on. I gestured to my purse, the fourth ticket was found, and our problems were solved.

So in essence there we were: five ostensibly law-abiding Americans, who had grown up in a society where the rule of law prevailed. But we were going native. No dip note? No problem Ч thereТs always the luggage compartment.

I sometimes think that we Westerners who try, consciously or unconsciously, to foist our values on this nation may be more like Anton ChekhovТs Dr. Ragin Ч protagonist of his story "Ward 6" Ч than we suspect. We come daily to the clinic to treat the patients, but one day the orderly may approach us, slippers and hospital gown in hand, saying, "Please put these on, sir. Е ThereТs your bed."

"DonТt worry, sir," the orderly may continue. "God willing, youТll soon get well."