Observations of an American journalist in Azerbaijan, Russia and USA.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
Last night as I was walking back from class, I gazed up at the Kapez Hotel, a hulking Soviet-era building, a gray box. One room was lighted from inside. On a whim, I decided to enter the foreboding building and inquire about the cost of a room.
The lobby was empty except for an older woman behind the “administration” desk. How much is a room?
“15 manat,” she answered.
This is about $18, so the price was attractive and suspect.
“Do the rooms have their own showers?” I asked.
“Yes,” she replied, somewhat miffed. “But there’s only cold water.”
I decided to keep the hotel I have for the moment. My only complaint with that place is the huge flock of pigeons roosting directly above my room. -----
My attitude toward taxis is similar to my attitude toward flying in airplanes. Yes, it’s inherently dangerous, and yes, it’s necessary sometimes. I suspend anxiety, and just assume that once I’ve made the decision to get into the car, I’m entrusting my life to the taxi driver or to God.
But, sometimes even I get a little nervous.
The taxi driver I met today was very nice. Even spoke some English, because his mother was an English teacher. We talked about the US elections. I said that Obama's policy would certainly be more peaceful and sensible than Bush's. He agreed. He hated war, after serving five years as a soldier in Nagorno-Karabakh.
My driver had charm - but he had no brakes to speak of. He used the down shift and coast method of stopping. Which is often fine, but when he discovered that the authorities had erected a new traffic light, he had to swerve into oncoming traffic in order to avoid hitting cars stopped for the light.
After about ten minutes of riding with him, I commented that his brakes needed repairing. I’m not a terribly conscientious car owner, but brake repairs are one point of maintenance that I don’t neglect.
Later, he said he was looking for a new car, which is probably why he’s not repairing his current taxi. It’s 35 years old, he said.
“Good for you,” I said.
As it turned out, as we were about a mile from my destination, he swerved to the side of the road and stopped.
“What’s up?” I asked.
“Out of gas,” he said.
I walked the rest of the way.
(Here are some pictures from today. Swans in the central park. A ruined Soviet building. Funny how quickly these buildings can decay!)