26 February 2007

That ringing in my ears...

The apartment in which I'm living is located on a major Moscow thoroughfare. As such, one rightfully expects a fair amount of traffic noise. My apartment does not disappoint in this regard. And while I tune out the noise with my dissertation during the day and with earplugs at night, it, like Comrade Lenin, "is always with us."

Nevertheless, I recently came to the conclusion that there was an unusual amount of siren-laden emergency vehicle traffic that passes in front of my building on any given day. Not just one or two police cars, mind you - several sets of sirens go whizzing by at the same time. Normally I would just ignore it like the rest of the "urban symphony." But then I started to wonder - am I living in an unsafe neighborhood? Is this a major thoroughfare for violent crime?

My fears were put to rest several evenings ago:

"R," host dad exclaimed, popping his head into my room. "Did you see our President go by?"

It turns out that Putin himself passes my apartment every day on the way to and from work. Imagine that! I was ready for him tonight. At the first sound of sirens I jumped to the window and pressed my face against the glass. Not a wise decision given the 15 degree temperatures on the other side of the glass.

Traffic heading out of town is brought to a halt, while the lanes heading toward the city center are cleared entirely. It is along this open stretch of road that the row of sleek black limousines passed with their flashing, blaring retinue surrounding them. As in America, you never know which car the vozhd is riding in. I chuckled when I looked at my watch - 7:30 pm; I seem to recall reading that average American President doesn't leave the Oval Office until 11:00 or later. But then again, maybe Vlad does some work from home.

I thought about going out there some evening to wave at him, but something tells me that wouldn't be a good idea...

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