Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Sheesh! Never a Dull Moment Here

I was going to write about the little things I saw on my way to and from the gym this morning:

*The guy with the t-shirt that read "NEW YORK CITIES."
* Or the guy with the fanny pack/bum bag (if you're British) that read "MINOR THREAT." I think he was.
*The drunk fellow who was in the "drunk position" on the Metro. That's sitting up, but folded over, in a position that protects your face and abdomen. It's a common sight on the Metro, especially the Circle Line, because you can ride all day without getting too far from where you started. When the train lurched, this guy rolled right off the bench and out on the floor. There was an audible gasp from the other commuters, but two guys in suits swooped down and gently picked him up, returned him to his place, and even threw a reflexive arm across his chest when the train lurched again. No one passed any sort of judgment on his condition. At Belorusskaya he got off, toting luggage. He was probably going to the train station. It was barely 10:00 a.m.
*A Moscow version of Eleanor Abernathy, the Crazy Cat Lady on the Simpsons. She was standing by the exit at Kievskaya station with a small black and white kitten tucked into the front of her many coats. She was gently scratching the cat under its chin. I don't know if she was trying to sell the kitten or begging or just hanging out. The cat looked content.
*The pukh is winding down. In some parts of town I didn't see any today.

But all of this was rendered insignificant when I got home. I had barely finished putting away my groceries when the phone rang.

It was The Spouse.

Calling from an Undisclosed Location.

Because, see, the police had just come and raided his place of business.

Thankfully, he had been in the gym when they got there. Someone managed to intercept him and warned him to stay away from the office. So he had flown below the radar and escaped. I made a crack about how the gym is good for more than just physical fitness, but he says the managing partner had been in the gym at the same time, and had been somehow summoned back upstairs to the conference room. Maybe it pays to not be managing partner.

It was, apparently, a full-blown police action with OMON (the Russian version of SWAT), face masks, machine guns, and bullet-proof vests.

Cause, you know. Lawyers and secretaries . . . they can get violent. Some can even be fear-biters.

The cops rounded up everyone who was there into a few conference rooms where they sat, without benefit of cell phones or reading material or even coffee for many hours.

Eventually it was determined why the firm had been raided.

Thankfully, it involved a client (and the mayor's office and a construction project and something like $80 million) The Spouse knew nothing about until that very moment. Not like that time where he inadvertently gummed up the works for the Ukrainian mob. But that all happily worked out without anyone's kneecaps being threatened. Although I did get sent to visit a friend in London and didn't know why until years later.

But law is not generally so thrilling.

Since his phone, Blackberry, and gadget that enables him to log-in remotely were all on his desk on one of the floors that was under lock-down . . . he couldn't do any work.

So we did the civilized thing.

We went out for lunch.

Frightening as this sort of thing sounds to Western ears (sort of like when I was investigated by the Argentine police for allegedly buying Skittles), it is not uncommon here in Moscow. It has happened to The Spouse's law firm before (although before his time). It has happened to all big foreign law firms here. And accounting firms. A friend said her husband, who is in pharmaceuticals here, once told her of a similar event.

It's about sabre rattling and intimidation.

I always said, when asked how long we expected to be in Moscow, that we would stay until we got rich or got thrown out.

Looks like little chance of the latter. At least today. So I'll hold out for rich, if no one minds.


Susan said...


Tina in CT said...

OMG! Sounds like former Soviet days!!!!

I sure wish my daughter and family were back here on US soil!

Anonymous said...

You scared Tina in CT! Don't worry Tina, it was exactly the same 10 years ago. Remember gals, back in USA, most of you were living in tiny towns or 'suburbia' and NOT in large USA cities like New York, Baltimore or Detroit. Expatresse, move to Detroit for few years and tell us how it goes! Maybe after that, Moscow would not be so weird.
And I just love what you wrote: "It has happened to all big foreign law firms here"

So you don't think it happens to Russian firms too, Since you wrote 'foreign'?
Must be like 'foreign special treatment' for you guys, right? You couldn't be more wrong! Russians often treated much worse than West European/Americans.
But then again, teenage Russian girls DO NOT buy their prom dresses in sex shops!
Expatresse, life in Moscow is even tough for Russophiles, for you it must be torture. I wonder why your husband couldn't find work in USA! Living in Slovakia and Russia for 9 years would drive average yankee up the wall! Or to 'hallway' sex.

Average Russian Guy.

Margarita said...

I guess I heard about that 'operations' on radio station 'Echo Moscow'.

The Expatresse said...

Of course, it happens to Russian firms here, too.

Rabbit blogger said...

so sane, going to lunch. you guys are experienced. i tend to mistake saber rattling for something more and then I don;t eat at all! thanks for sharing your calm.

Anonymous said...

Something similar is happening here (in US) too. I have never heard of it before (it does not mean it did not happen before), but lately we have a lot of banks closures. And I have herd a program on NPR that is a special kind of report called Planet Money (some people in this group are from Ira Glass "That American Life"). They describe how the govrement takes over the bank - it is very creepy, sort of dark James Bond type of operation. The agents come to town a night before the event. They stay at different hotels and everything is very hush-hush. And than a lot of people just enter the bank on Friday afternoon, put all people in the conference room, take over all the computer, etc. And Monday Morning, I think, the other bank is running the show.

Clarks in Moscow said...

This happens in many places in the world. After the introduction of the Sarbanes Oxley Act in the USA, the SEC investigators started carrying guns when visiting audit firms. In South Africa, the police raid law firms and audit firms on a regular basis. The SWAT gear used in Russia is however heavyhanded.

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