As we slid into Barney’s Merc, I asked my son, “Do you know how many Zhiguli’s like ours we could buy with this car?”
I answered my own question, “Twenty, at least! We could have four of each color – pomegranate, aqua, white, blue, eggplant.”
We both laughed and started to speculate what we would do with 20 Zhigulis. “Start a taxi service.”
Barney stopped us, “Hey Fred, I can make a lot more money with my Merc – do you know how much those babes at Cantinetta or Marios will pay for a ride home in a Merc? With an American driver. And sometimes there are bonuses.” He glanced over and smiled.
“How about a driving school?”
Barney again piped in, “Now that’s a good idea.” Then he stopped himself, “But who will attend. They don’t think they need driving school over here; they’re all born drivers – they invented it. And it costs less than a hundred bucks just to buy the license.”
I ended the conversation, “At least with twenty Zhigulis, we could hope that at least one would always start.”
Fred Jr. was quiet, fascinated with the Mercedes video display. “Pop, can we get one of those?”
“I don’t think they make them yet for a Zhiguli, you’ll just have to watch the city out the windows.” He was already slumbering, ensconced on Barney’s leather back seat.
We were on our way to an awards banquet. A late night email from Barney had interrupted my work. “Fred, I’m supposed to get an award tomorrow – want to come?”
“It’s the weekend; I’ll have to take Fred Jr.”
“Sure, I’ll buy you dinner.”
We rolled up to the entry of the Marriott. The alley was lined with black BMWs and Mercedes, all bearing blue number plates. Uniforms and Kotwani tailored suits filled the lobby. This was the Fifth Annual GIBDD Awards. We picked up the mimeographed program.
“You’re going to be awarded Zasluzhenny Voditel Rossiya,” I told Barney.
“Honored Driver of Russia! It says ‘For Service to the GIBDD through Contributions to the Salaries of Officers,” I translated.
As we squeezed through the crowd, Barney recognized several people. Two came up to shake his hand. “You look familiar,” Barney looked perplexed.
“Sure, we’re security guards at Mario’s and Monolith. We just wanted to thank you ourselves.”
The highlight of the evening was a police video presentation of the Gold winner, showing him hanging out the door of his black BMW, and yelling into his mobile phone to the dispatcher asking when the tow truck was going to come to take him and his BMW home.
As we climbed back into Barney’s Merc I asked, “Barney, how do you feel?”
“Great, it’s nice to do your part. And you know what, when they stop you, they give you a police escort home. Do you know how much the babes at Gorky will pay for a ride home in a Merc, with an American passport, and a full, blue flashing light police escort? I can have a nice dinner, a bottle of my favorite Gavi, make my contribution to society, and more than break even. You won’t be able to do that with your twenty Zhigulis.”
When we got out at home, Fred Jr. glanced over at our Pomegrante Pyaturka. “I know what I’m going to get mom for Christmas,” he whispered.
“But mom doesn’t have a driver’s license.”