Thursday, 3 September 2009
I don't Monday
Continuing my rant about policemen all over the city of Almaty who stop, hassle and then extort cash from drivers for no reason whatsoever I would like to share with you some advice I was given by Wise Old Owl, a long-time expatriate who has coped in regimes worse than this one before now and is utterly inured to coruption.
"When you're stopped," she said, taking a break in her sentence to inhale deeply from a menthol cigarette, "Just say 'Ya-Nee-Pon-Ee-Je-Nick'. It's easy."
She is as cool as a cucumber, I suspect, in most situations and facing the local constabulary would be a walk in the park. I was new to town and did not know any Russian at this point, so she explained:
"You see, the police will think you are trying very hard to speak Russian but you are completely crap at it. 'Pon-Ee-Je-Nick' means Monday. But 'Pon-Ee-My-Oh' means I understand. So you say 'I don't Monday' and it sounds like you are trying to say 'I don't understand' but you can't even get that right," she chortled.
"Works every time!"
"Brilliant!" I thought, "I will give it a try."
Husband was away in Europe one weekend and so I took to the roads for the first time by myself. I had not driven for weeks and weeks anywhere, and had not tried out the new car at all. The whole unpleasant afternoon (forced upon me by a total lack of anything to eat in our temporary apartment) was one of heightened-experience for me, never having been behind the wheel of a 4.2 litre automatic V8 engine before (they go very fast very quickly, by the way) and not having clocked up many miles in Almaty at all.
Making my way slowly around a corner (yes, I was on the correct side of the road), a policeman started waving his little red traffic wand at me, and trying to catch my eye.
"Bugger that," I thought, and put my foot down avoiding catching his eye.
"Mummy, that policeman wanted you to stop," came First Child's observation from the back of the car.
"Yes, darling, I know," I said through semi-gritted teeth, "But I haven't done anything wrong and so I just pretended I didn't see him. He probably just wants me to give him some money."
"But Mummy," she continued. "It's easy, you just have to tell him that you don't Monday!"