Much ado has been made about the Russian business climate and the economic future of this great nation. Talking heads on business news television expound at great length on this complicated and urgent topic. The health of small business and the middle class is the source of unlimited controversy on the streets, in high level board rooms, and around the kitchen table.
Please allow this humble volunteer blogger to bring these weighty issues to rest, absolutely free of charge.
Small business in Russia is booming. This subjective and haphazard opinion is based entirely on daily observations in the Russian commuter train. Just like most of the people who live in Moscow, I don’t actually live in Moscow. And like most wannabe Muscovites who have brains, I commute on the train rather than in the traffic.
I will not waste space in this wide-ranging and significant economic post to give you a language lesson. All I can tell you is that “commuter train”, in Russian, sounds something like what you would expect “female electrician” to sound like, in Russian.
Together with literally billions of wannabe Muscovites, I make my way to the city center on the commuter train. And there I am, congratulating myself on how I am saving time and money, while being careful with my ever naughty personal carbon footprint, when my tranquil travels are interrupted by The Clever Commuter Commerce of the Capital City.
Now, these interruptions are usually only every 3 minutes or so on the commuter train. And indeed this used to be known as speculation, if you know what I mean, and the result was a term in a location of deprived freedom. If you know what I mean. But those were the days of yore, and glasnost and perestroika and all that, and here you are being blindsided by blatant and Clever Commuter Commerce.
You see, you thought you had everything you needed in the whole wide world, and then this peddler of fortune has now entered your train wagon. Here is a Small Sample of what this Sly Speculator might Suggest:
-Literature: gardening magazines, newspapers, spiritual literature, etc.
-A lamp that reminds you of what your dentist uses that has adjustable angles and will connect magnetically to the metal ceiling in your home.
-Entertainment: and by “entertainment” I mean “live music”, with the songs magically lasting the distance between two train stops.
-A piece of rubber that will stick to your car’s dashboard, and you stick your lighter and your pens and coins to it, and they won’t be sticky afterwards. Or you can put it on a window in your house, because if you had a car, you probably wouldn’t be on the commuter train. This piece of rubber is magical in the sense that it is sticky when you want it to be and not sticky when you don’t want it to be.
-Ice Cream and/or pirogis. I suspect that the former is warm and the latter cold, despite the claims of this merchant of fine victuals. For indeed, water follows the path of least resistance and I am suspicious that the laws of thermodynamics also apply to foodstuffs in close proximity to each other in the peddler’s cart.
-Passport and document covers. If you do not purchase these items, you will spend years of your life replacing damaged passports and documents.
-Forms of slug repellent, that in the words of said merchant, have reached nearly Biblical plague proportions in your yard. I can say with profound authority that this testimony is true. Slugs have taken over the yards of the Moscow province.
-And quite possibly the hottest item of the season: a stuffed animal that will repeat any sound you make. It sounds to me a lot like a stuffed animal with a tape recorder hidden inside, but I guess that’s just my inner cynic coming out.
And I have learned that these vendors of fortune seem to all follow a Precise Peddling Pattern. A Template of Traveling Tycoons, if you will. Indeed, I am consistently amazed at the astounding results of these Peddling Prodigies. The Formula is this: “Respected Passengers!” + “There is a problem!” + “In my hand I am holding the solution to the problem!” + “In the stores this solution costs 500 rubles!” + “But today you can buy this from me for 100 rubles!” +”I wish for you a happy journey!”= SALE!
Logic would seem to dictate that we, the 10,000 passengers in this particular wagon, have chosen to join this cattle car in order to economize our personal funds. And you would think we would have become wise to the above strategy and somehow understand that the reason they are selling us this solution here in the train car is because we never until now understood that we had this problem. However, no sooner does someone walk in and demonstrate the uses of a gadget we have all witnessed for the very first time, or played a song for us for two and a half minutes, or waxed eloquent on the prowess of an author who up to this very moment was completely non-existent in our limited literary understanding, and we are digging away in our Russian man purses and our wallets are yawning crazily wide as now we are the proud owners of, yes, a stuffed animal that will repeat any gleeful and proud noise that we now produce.
Indeed, it seems nary a mobile merchant passes through any wagon without making at least one sale.
So, sit back, relax and enjoy the show. As the train presses forward, so does the economy. Learn to appreciate the precision of these portable peddlers as they seek success on this train’s wheels of fortune.
But as the Japanese bath towel merchant wisely cautions us at the end of his presentation: “Ladies, please do not take what I am saying to an extreme. You can not burn away cellulite by scrubbing. However, with this towel, your skin will become more elastic and smooth.”