I wanted to take the first bus to Moscow after ending my classes for the day. I didn’t want to go through the hassle of walking the 40 minutes to the bus station so I called the taxi company to pick me up.
15 minutes later a little Renault, with a fat taxi driver wearing little rectangle glasses wedged in the front seat, turned onto proshivalskaya street to pick me up. I sat down in the little taxi and he mumbled something as he turned the car around in the icy driveway of my dorm. I gave a confirming “da” and we were off.
Seconds later, as we drove past the university, without taking his eyes off the road, he started scolding me for not walking to the train station when the weather was still pretty good. Lazy student he called me. Flustered, that I would be scolded by a taxi driver for using a taxi, I said I was a teacher at the university. This is when the taxi-driver turned into the persona of a well-trained KGB interrogator:
Where are you from? Florida. What are you doing here? Teaching English. Why are you in Smolensk? Because that’s where my program sent me.
He then asked me if I knew the names of different government agencies in Russian and I said no. Asked me if I knew Snowden.
You are a spy and I know it. Are you a spy?
Well if I was a spy, I would say no and if I wasn’t a spy I would say no.
I know you are a spy because you are here in Smolensk. Why are you here in Smolensk? We already have good English teachers.
After spending the entire week introducing myself to 5th year students and Russian schoolchildren; defending myself against accusations of espionage by my taxi driver is the last thing I want to do. So I decided to turn the tables.
If I was a spy, what would I be spying on?
I dunno road systems. How people drive here and our road layouts.
Really? How Russians drive and roads are that important?
You spy on things I know it. How much are you getting?
I’m not telling you.
HA! You are a spy and I know for a fact…
At this point, I’m not sure what’s going on. I don’t know if he’s trolling or serious. Maybe I am indeed an American spy trapped in a Renault with a crazed Russian man? What do I do? What will he do?
In the US, we don’t tell people how much our salary is.
Well us either….
HA! How much do you make?!
I know you are KGB and they sent you to pick me up because they knew I needed a taxi!
Haha Yes, yes that is true…
We drove up to the train station and I was still confused about what’s going on or what the taxi driver will potentially do.
That’ll be 120 USD.
Upps I only have rubles.
That’ll be 120 rubles…
He stopped the car. The 10 minute interrogation had come to a close. He finally looked at me and I gave him the 120 rubles.
Thank you. Say hello for me.
I exited the taxi a little freaked. One of the weirdest conversations with a stranger I have ever had. I was kinda pissed that someone thought he could just pry into my person life like that, but at the same time I don’t think either of us will forget it for a long time.