Monday, October 31, 2011
Flexibility - Moscow, Russia
Your kitchen tap is leaking, the electricity system is not working, your oven is broken or you need to install a new curtain in the living room. The expert is very expensive and busy: if you call him today he will be available in one month. No need to worry, there is the husband by the hour. We're not talking about extra-marital relations or polygamy here. You call a guy whose number you found god knows where, one who doesn't have any specialization but can do pretty much everything, just like the good old husbands. You explain what he has to do and agree on a price on the phone, he will come soon after that, with all the tools and materials needed for the task. If he didn't know how to solve the problem he asked someone else to teach him or sent a colleague who can do it. He solves the issue, you pay him (prices are reasonable), bye bye.
You need to move to another neighborhood, to send some furniture to your uncle's flat or to get rid of something bulky. You are by yourself, you'll never make it. You walk downstairs, get out on the sidewalk and look around. As soon as you spot an immigrant from the Eastern republics of the former Soviet Union - a Kazakh, an Uzbek, a Tajik - you stop him.
"Good morning, I need to move some furniture."
He already knows what you are talking about and doesn't lose his composure. He won't think that you are crazy nor crack up laughing.
"How big? How many floors? Where to?"
You explain everything, you negotiate the price and you walk him to your place. If backup is needed he will take care of that.
You went to a party that ended late, you didn't come by car because you knew you would have a drink too many and the area where you live is not well served by public transport. Taxis are expensive and need to be booked in advance. You go out, you stand near the curb of a main thoroughfare and stretch an arm, waving your hand. Not when you chance to see the first taxi...when you spot the very first car! Like that, random. If it's not a Jaguar or someone in a hurry they will certainly stop. And if the first vehicle won't, the next one will. You explain where you have to go, they will propose a price and if you think it's too expensive you can negotiate. When you come to an agreement you finally get on the car. It didn't take you more than a minute.
Who would have thought that one day we would have envied the former Soviet Union for it's flexibility?