Friday, February 02, 2007

Russian Collateral

I went with my "girlfriend" to the new snazzy wifi Italian chain restaurant in town, which is basically done up in the style of TGIF or Olive Garden or whatever, where you can pay exorbitant prices for mediocre Italian food served by sharp-looking but still rude and incompetent wait-staff. There's a pleasantly modern, corporate-hip, soul-less atmosphere there though, so all the good-looking types flock there in their tacky Gucci, DKNY, dyed-haired glory.

We dined on wafer-thin pizza and bad draft beer and I asked her if she'd managed to get the $2000 she needs for the "Work and Travel" program application.

She nodded demurely. "One of my students, a guy from Lukos (the big oil company). I . . . uh. . . am not quite sure of the terms of paying him back, however. He invited me to a photo session. . . when I said I didn't have any nice clothes, he said that wouldn't be a problem."

Statements such as this would be considered jokes in America, I suppose, or delivered with alarm, at the very least. To her, this is as normal as any bank request for a statement of collateral.

Years ago this might have caused me to emit a loud, drunken screed against greed and the prostitute ethic. This time I just smiled and shook my head and said, "You Russians. . ."

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