Today, November 10th, is Police Day in Russia. That means they all want to go and get plastered tonight, and that requires money, which means they need to pull over more motorists from which to extract bribes.
The police were out in full force in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk this morning, pulling over motorists left right and centre. I narrowly avoided a speed trap at 7:15am on my way to our training centre, but made a daft mistake on the way to the site an hour later. There is a large police checkpoint outside the town where the limit goes from 70 to 40 over a very short distance. I usually crawl through this section, but today the road was clear and I went through the first gantry, several hundred metres from the actual checkpoint, at 57kph instead of 40kph. As a result, I got flagged over and hauled into the office. Problem was, my Russian is crap but infinitely better than the English of the police: both the rough-looking captain and the twelve year old with the submachinegun. The latter asked me if I spoke Russian, and I said a bit and if he speaks slowly I’ll understand a bit. However, I won’t understand bureacratic waffle designed to get me to pay you a bribe in order to avoid going to court. He asked me if I had a translator, I said I didn’t. He asked me if I had any at the office and I said I didn’t and they all speak only Russian. Nobody was sure what to do. I was: sit there and speak only when spoken to. It’s a bit like being at school. The captain then asked if my translators were all drunk, and I laughed at that. He really was a jolly fellow, if only he didn’t look as though he was about to shoot me and bury me under his checkpoint we could have been best buddies. Finally, he handed me back my documents and bid me goodbye. I guess I was one of the lucky ones today of all days.