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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Pardon Me, But You Are In My Space

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Imagine a sun-lit Moscow courtyard at three in the afternoon on a late March weekday. Huge piles of snow loom everywhere; the spring sun melts the snow into pools of smelly brown grease underfoot. In between the snowdrifts, one can see a few parking places; some are occupied.

Imagine further that a young woman with a supernaturally dark tan obviously acquired at a fitness center emerges from entrance No. 3 of a large 1950s-era building. She is wearing a pink mink coat and improbably high heels. The woman opens the door of her silver Mercedes 500 and slides in. Having pulled halfway into the river of slush that signifies a road, the woman gets out of the car and struts over to the slot in between two high snow heaps that surround her parking space. She pulls down her tight leather pants and squats happily. Having gone about her business, she pulls her pants back on, zips them up with a coquettish zing, gets into the Mercedes again and speeds off.

Twenty minutes later, a battered old Volvo drives into the same yard. It pauses for over a minute by entrance No. 1 of the apartment building. Then, apparently aiming for the parking space just abandoned by the silver Mercedes, the Volvo approaches entrance No. 3.

A man in his early thirties gets out of the car. He flings a cigarette butt over the roof of a rusty metal garage. He approaches the slot where the tanned woman's car just was, bends down and sniffs the slush.

A few seconds later, he straightens again, shakes his head in apparent disappointment, gets into his car and drives further into the courtyard. He finally parks his car by a tree after sniffing it intently for a long time.

Ah, if only finding and keeping your parking spot in Moscow were this simple. If only it were just a matter of marking your spot with your smell and barking and growling a few times when necessary.

In reality, though, here is how parking space disputes are usually solved in Moscow:

You park your unpretentious Skoda Felicia near your entrance overnight and the next morning, you find your left taillight smashed. That same day, you find a different parking space, but a week later, you find that your right taillight has been smashed as well. In panic, you park your Skoda further away from the entrance, just to find a note stuck under the windshield wiper suggesting that you look for a different parking space.

A friendly neighbor tells you that he had to call a tractor in to clear up the space you have occupied for the past two days. A group of violent-looking teenagers give you evil glances as you drive up to the house at night. (Could they be the ones who were carrying out the executions of your taillights?) Fearing a flat tire in the morning, you begin to park out on the street, exposing your car to the threat of being stolen, broken into or simply destroyed in an accident.

One day, of course, the snow will melt, there will be plenty of parking spaces and your sun-starved neighbors will become less aggressive.

One day, we will have lived in our 1950s Moscow building for longer than six weeks, and the neighbors will get acquainted with our parking habits. One day, we will find a Volkswagen parked in our spot. Ruff, ruff!

Anna Badkhen is a reporter for The Boston Globe.