Rocket RENTAL to Russia: One Reason Supporter's Tale!


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A few years ago, while seeing one of my sons off on a flight out of D.C.'s Reagan National Airport's threadbare old, original terminal, a man with a baby strapped to his chest ran over excitedly to me. "Hey! Can I talk to you?" he asked in a way that was agitated and slightly unhinged-enough to make me reflexively think: "OK, this is how it ends—getting blown up by a suicide bomber. And not even in one of the newer, nicer parts of the airport."

But it turned out that the would-be jihadist with the baby strapped to his chest like a dynamite belt was actually a fellow named Scott Ewine. Originaly from North Dakota but now based in the greater Washington, D.C. area, Scott was an avid reader of the print and online editions of Reason, had recognized me from old issues of the mag and some TV appearances, and simply wanted to say hello and thanks for doing what we do here at the planet's leading source of libertarian news, opinion, and commentary.

That sort of interaction is one of the great perks of working at Reason. Since our founding in 1968, Reason has not only changed the world we live in (starting with Reason Foundation founder Robert W. Poole's seminal work on deregulating airline ticket pricing) and helped big names such as Drew Carey and John Stossel channel their inner libertarians. Reason has also provided a source of intellectual stimulation, ideological nourishment, and welcoming community in a world that has often cast a withering eye on "Free Minds and Free Markets."

Scott's experience actually parallels my own: My older brother had discovered the magazine while at college in the late 1970s and started sharing it with me while I was in high school. I loved the way the magazine debunked moral panics and constantly undercut scare stories by using facts and clear logic. It introduced me to a whole alternative way of thinking about how people and societies flourish and self-organize. Soon enough, I was calling myself a libertarian and became a subscriber myself.

Reason is more than just a magazine (or a website or a video platform). It's a virtual conversation pit where libertarians can gather to hash out their ideas about the world, discover the best arguments for increasing freedom in every area of human activity, read up on new and interesting "experiments in living," and know that we're part of a growing movement that not only excites us all with the potential of a limitless future but scares the bejeezus out of liberals and conservatives. They had their shot, they blew it, and they know they blew it.

Reason's audience and reach is growing expontentially—our web traffic alone has more than doubled over the past few years and we now pull over 4 million visits to Reason.com a month. Our staffers and writers appear in print all over the place and haunt cable news and radio with our upbeat message of freedom and liberty. In the wake of the absolute failure of conventional politics and ideology so far in the 21st century, we're bring a new way of thinking to people at exactly the right moment.

We're able to do all of this because of your essential help. Your tax-deductible donations make it possible for us to keep bringing the best libertarian journalism and thought to you—and to the wider world. As we enter the final hours of our 2014 Webathon, please give what you can and help us reach our goal of $200,000. Help us make the world a freer, fairer, more interesting place as we make the moral and pragmatic case for giving us all more say in how we live our own lives.

Back to Scott: After that initial run-in at the airport, Scott attended several D.C.-area Reason events, became a supporter, and even sailed on our initial Reason cruise (where he and his friends engaged, if memory serves, in a grand xperiment to see whether they could drive down the effective price-per-drink of the cruise's booze package to zero through heavy consumption.) He sends me occasional updates about the globe-trotting that he does for his work. Among his recent trips was one to Russia, where he placed a Reason tote bag at the feet of a statue of Lenin (see above) and had a cautionary adventure that is worth relating to all world travelers. Plus, he wrote "If you want to get the backing of all of the the North Dakota libertarians (~9) you have to eventually do something with my little story!"

His tale involves Russian cops, suprised pedestrians, international rental-car agreements, and a comparative analysis of justice here and in the land of autocrats. Read on after the break:

Here are a couple pictures I got on the last trip to Russia.  Life is all about experiences and learning, and occasionally taking the time to pass that knowledge onto others.  It is in that spirit I will try to enlighten you with a few things I have learned in the last day or so in the hope that you may someday find it useful.

1. In Russia, what appears to be a small winding road through a park may actually be a wide, paved pedestrian path.

2. Due to changes in elevation, the continuity of a pedestrian path through a Russian park may be interrupted on occasion by a flight of stairs.

3. When driving on an overcast day in the late afternoon along a pedestrian path through a Russian park, it is nearly impossible to detect an approaching flight of stairs.

4. When driving through a Russian park, the interpreter in the passenger seat may become immobilized with fear and unable to render guidance, even though he is intimately familiar with the customs and traditions of driving in Russia.

5. A Volkswagen Polo makes a hell of a lot of noise when you drive it down a flight of stairs.

6. If you drive a car down flight of stairs in a Russian park with your interpreter in the passenger seat, it may take several minutes for him to speak to you again, and then he may only be able to repeatedly mutter "Cowboy!"

7. When visiting parks, Russians, by their nature, tend to congregate in areas where someone recently drove a car down a flight of stairs.

 8. Upon learning the nationality of the person that drove a car down a flight of stairs in their park, Russians may respond by slowly shaking their heads back and forth saying "Americanski".

9. Police that arrive on the scene will respond in the same manner.

10. It takes approximately four hours at the station for Russian police to complete the paperwork required to give you a 2000 ruble (56$) "administrative fine" for driving a car through a park and down a flight of stairs.

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NEXT: Georgia Set to Execute Mentally Disabled Man Whose Lawyer was Drinking Heavily Throughout His Trial

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  1. “Hey! Can I talk to you?” he asked in a way that was agitated and slightly unhinged-enough to make me reflexively think…

    …is this Peter Suderman in disguise?

    Also, wasn’t there more orange in the r tank earlier this afternoon?

  2. …and then he may only be able to repeatedly mutter “Cowboy!”

    He’s just like John McClane, only Scott’s excursion in Russia is actually entertaining. Yippee-ki-yay.

  3. US cops would have seized the car and tazed him?

  4. In America, you park at the drive-through.
    in Soviet Russia, you drive through the park.

  5. Anyone who has been in a car in Moscow should know this is tame. The Russians were probably disappointed he didn’t catch air. The first time I took a cab in Moscow we were driving down the train tracks to avoid “traffic” while a train was oncoming. We then hit a crossing and peeled back onto the road until we made it across to the oncoming lanes…that seat was brown when I got out of that car.

    Driving in Siberia however was as peaceful as driving in Kansas so not all Russia is the same.

  6. Top 5 places NOT TO DRIVE:
    5. NYC
    4. Paris
    3. London
    2. Naples (since you aren’t moving it really isn’t driving)
    1. Rome (never again)

    Top 5 places TO DRIVE:
    5. Cotswolds
    4. Loire Valley
    3. Utah
    2. Amsterdam (since the rules are in your favor feel free to hit pedestrians and cyclists…not shit)
    1. Berlin/Germany (UNBELIEVABLY AWESOME. Everyone knows how to drive and they do it fast.)

    1. #2… I saw a motor scooter with two occupants pull out in front of a car with a couple of construction workers in Amsterdam. The car blasted the scooter, sending its riders and parts flying everywhere. The construction workers sat expressionless, eating their pastries, waiting for the scooter riders to drag themselves and their former scooter to the side of the street.

      1. yup

  7. I was calling myself a libertarian

    Nick, you say this and here in a day or two I will see a Chapman article. How in the fuck does that work?

  8. All right, fine! Now that it’s nearly at 200k, I’ll throw something into the pot. Sheesh!

  9. 11. Dash cams are popular for civilians in Russia, so searching “Russian driving videos” will produce a lot of examples of insane driving.

    1. Including this one of a driver turning onto a sidewalk to drive up some stairs: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h1D32wxJVpY

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