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Automotive Section November 21, 2007
Taxi Driver: Gypsy Cab Confessions in Moscow
By Yasha Levine Browse author Email
Page 3 of 7

The girls were hesitant to get in. But after a bit of cajoling, the cuter of the two came up to our car to negotiate with us. Before we cold figure out where she was going, her friend pulled her away.

Unfazed, we rolled around the corner to the huge crowd outside Tema Bar, a middle class student dance club. This time, we had better luck, or maybe just drunker clients. It was another pair of girls, one cute, one less so. Initially, they refused our offer. But we were persistent, slowly cruising down the street after them with our windows down, like true bombily. After a few other cabbies turned them down, they reconsidered us. They wanted us to drive them to a location on the edge of the the MKAD -- Moscow's outer ring road -- for only 300 rubles.

"Nu chto?" the less cute girl said to her friend. "They look like nice boys, and they got a really nice car. I don't think it's that dangerous."

"Of course not. We're nice boys," I said.

"Who's he?" she said, pointing to Dave.

"He's my navigator," I answered.

"Oi! Is this a Nissan?" she suddenly switched the subject, as if only now realizing I was driving a "nice" car. "I like Nissans, they are great cars. Do you like yours? Oh, but you don't have leather seats." They seemed to forget their fears as we talked about the optional winter package I had supposedly sprung for.

The girls didn't pick up on my slight accent, but when they found out the guy in the passenger seat was American, they started to blush.

"Yes, we live out by Kashirskoe shosse. We live in a village. We are just village girls," they giggled. As I drove, Dave laid the sleaze on thick.

"Come on, let's all hang out together. We'll come up for a while, get to know each other," he said as we pulled up to their house. They didn't say yes, but they didn't exactly get out of the car, either. They sat in the back seat giggling a little too long, when they should have been reaching for the handle. It was as if they were waiting for us to make some definitive, forceful move that we never made. They got out of the car and we drove to a nearby kiosk for some beer.

At 3 a.m. we swung by Rai, another elitny dance club. Here we got a totally different reaction from the oligarch-hunting dyevs. As in, no reaction. Rick Deckard would call it lack of appropriate emotional response--a sign that we're dealing with androids.

But it seemed a matter of degree. Our taxi services were also rejected by the clients at Fabrique, a club a few rungs down the cool ladder from Rai, but at least there the girls responded by giggling.

By 4 a.m. we still couldn't get a second fare. Going for broke, we decided to scrape the bottom of the nightlife barrel at Zona, a prison-themed nightclub out in the boonies considered hip by podmoskovie teenagers. (You might remember the club as being the one that face controlled me because I was in a wheelchair, in my story "Hell On Wheels.") The street outside the club usually teems with patrons, but today the only activity was happening inside a jumbo patty wagon parked right outside. It was stuffed with shaven-headed dudes staring forlornly out the windows. As a club employee later told me, the militsia carried out a huge drug raid that day.

We decided to hang out in the club and wait for everyone to go home so we could offer them a ride, but no shakes. Twenty people were left in a club designed to hold over 2,000. And they were all under sixteen and broke. They were obviously waiting for the metro to open.

By the time I got home, it was 7 a.m. I had driven 166 km and made 400 rubles.


On Saturday, I left the house at 6:30 p.m. and hit the Garden Ring. Right off the bat, I picked up 200-ruble fare from a father and son who were going out to Konkovo, southern neighborhood on the edge of Moscow. The guy, a jolly fat man who barely fit in the front seat, was well mannered and polite. He asked about the weather and told me about his friend's dacha which had an indoor shashlik grill so you could make it any time of the year.

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Yasha Levine is an editor at The eXile. You can contact him at
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