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Automotive Section November 21, 2007
Taxi Driver: Gypsy Cab Confessions in Moscow
By Yasha Levine Browse author Email
Page 4 of 7

As I drove back into the center, I saw traffic cops out in full force. They were pulling people over left and right. What were they doing out on Police Day, their holiday? The night before, the cops all but vanished. They even managed to foul up a Lada rental I had lined up because the agency couldn't get through to the local precinct to check my criminal history. Apparently, they were boozing it up hard and didn't bother with answering their phones. Today, they seemed to be on every corner, and in a bad mood.

The number of bombily out on the streets seemed to double, causing small traffic jams at most of the key pick up spots. I circled the center in vain for another five hours, but failed to pick up a single fare. During this time I grew sick of the techno CD I had burned to make things more authentic, and popped in some Radiohead.

Finally, at 11 p.m., I picked up my second fare of the day in Kitai Gorod, next to Red Square. They were an indie couple who had hung out at Krizis Zhanra and Solyanka, and now wanted me to take them to Il Patio, a crap Italian restaurant chain.

They were shocked that a bombila was listening to Radiohead. "What is Moscow coming to?" the dude said to his girlfriend.

As he got out of the car, he told me I was the best cab driver he's ever had.


After dropping them off, I headed to bombila spawning heaven: Pushkin Square. The place was crawling with gypsy cabs picking up people coming out of the metro and the dozens of stores, restaurants and clubs in the area. On my first pass, I swooped in on three chicks, edging out a competitor, a black window-tinted BMW. They wanted me to drive them to Fresh, some club out by Staraya Basmannaya that I had never heard of, for 200 rubles. I pulled over while one of them called some guy who knew the club's exact address, but the girls weren't happy about what he'd told them. They had wanted to hang out with another crew of boys, but now they were going to have to hang around with the guy that gave them directions.

"Oh, well. Maybe, they'll drive us home this time," one of them said. They lived all the way out in Tsaritsino, a rought district on Moscow's southern edge.

I said I'd be working all night and proposed that they call me if they needed a ride, but the idea didn't appeal to them.

I dropped off the girls and returned to Pushkin Square. The place was even more congested than before. Zhigs of all types and colors circled around a never-ending stream of people, seeking empty crevices and jamming into them as rudely as possible. I was about to pick up another fare when the urge to urinate hit me hard. I drove in search of an appropriate alley.

After pissing, I managed to pick up a fare on my third pass of Pushkin Square. A petite brunette who had been denied entry into Zhara, while her girlfriends were allowed in. The poor girl needed to get to Kolomenskaya and offered to pay me 300 rubles. I had no idea where that was, but agreed anyway.

Her name was Tanya. She was some sort of actress and had won an MTV acting competition. No wonder the girl had no idea how to get home; all she did was talk. She complained about gaining weight, about people not leaving her alone, calling her all the time to go out, about the fact that people thought she was short, about her aunt who was Spanish and lived in Spain, about how she had been going out for three nights straight. I'd have thought she'd be depressed after getting faced, but she just wouldn't shut the hell up.

I had no map, so I had to call a friend for directions to Kolomenskaya. Tanya had no idea where she lived. Even when we finally arrived in her general neighborhood, she couldn't tell which building was hers. It took me more than an hour of trial-and-error looking to deliver the girl to her doorstep.

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

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Save The eXile: The War Nerd Calls Mayday
The future of The eXile is in your hands! We're holding a fundraiser to save the paper, and your soul. Tune in to Gary Brecher's urgent request for reinforcements and donate as much as you can. If you don't, we'll be overrun and wiped off the face of the earth, forever.

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