One of the chief considerations when looking for an apartment in Moscow is ‘how close is it to a Metro station?’ The Metro in Moscow is superb but unfortunately by the late 1980s Moscow had expanded beyond the reach of the Metro, leaving some of the newer suburbs Metro-less. One of these in the 1990s was Novokosino, where Rod and I had our apartment. Novokosino is in the extreme north-east of Moscow, a sort of forgotten appendage (why Rod and I ended up there I’ll explain in a later blog). Given the ridiculous hours we were working at the time relying on buses and trams to get us home was a no-no so we had to rely on taxis.
The problem here was that ‘official’ taxis were few and far between (I suppose there was little demand; most people used the Metro) so we had to rely on ‘unofficial’ taxis. This photo shows me hailing a taxi with Rod on the right laughing as I do it. What you had to do was stand at the side of the street with your arm outstretched waiting for a car to pull up. You’d shout out your destination, if the driver was interested in the ride he’d shout back the fare, you’d haggle and then get in.
Of course, this meant the quality, the mental stability and the sobriety of the driver was down to pot luck and some of the rides we had were bloody scary. One rule Rod and I had was we wouldn’t get into a car with two men inside … that would be asking for trouble.
Perhaps the oddest taxi ride we had was when an ambulance pulled up. I have to admit to my Communist sensibilities having been a little affronted by the thought of using an ambulance as a taxi but as it was a very cold night I swallowed my scruples and climbed inside. I had to sit up front trying to look like a doctor (I kid you not: that’s what the ambulance driver asked me to do) while Rod rode in the back lying on a stretcher and pretending to be a patient with instructions to start moaning as though in pain if we were stopped.
The streets were crowded that night so we made slow progress and that’s when Rod had a bright idea (an English rascal as he is): he offered to double the fare if the driver put on his siren. We got home in double-quick time (so embarassing!!!) and I did give Rod a telling off for being such a hooligan.