Thursday, October 30, 2008

Russian Bureaucracy Lesson #724: Don't Get Your Car Towed

If you have the careless misfortune to have your car towed in Moscow, the good news is that the maximum fine is only 300RUB (~$12). In central Moscow, this is hardly a deterrent to would-be serial mis-parkers, so the police have become highly creative in their recovery policies, perverting further the already twisted beauracracy.

Last week this scenario occured to Diana, a friend of mine. Having had a delightful late-evening catchup, we left a cafe around 1am to find the street where she had parked devoid of cars. We quickly ruled out the most likely Moscow scenario- theft, as either a particularly efficient gang of car theives had an unusually long list of beaten up 1974 Lada's to steal along with Diana's car, else it was more likely the work of the police.

After calling the mystery number for non-emergency police calls, we were directed to an address on the outskirts of Moscow, in the shadow of a large nuclear power station. Our destination was a temporary construction shed, sandwiched between two derelict factories. Inquiries of the police standing guard resulted in the enlightened response that it had been placed there, because "that's where it was built".

An hour wait later, Diana found she also had a couple of unpaid speeding fines, and so only an additional "fine" of several thousand rubles slipped between her passport pages would "persuade" the officer to allow her to collect her car. Having paid the actual fine (a surprisingly technological process), we were told to head to another derelict lot on the outskirts of Moscow.

Upon arrival, we were faced with a large corrugated iron gate, and a rickety fenced off lot. Some banging and paper exchanges later, we had to proceed to a dacha-like structure, where Diana negotiated the flower and vegetable patch to confer with the sleepy attendant inside.

Some more posturing, much more paperwork, and finally 3 hours later, we were free to find our way back to Moscow.

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