Vehicle inspections and a visit to the therapist
By Mika Parkkonen in Moscow
I decided to spend Finland's Independence Day in some form of useful activity - driving the car to get it inspected.
There is precisely one vehicle inspection station in Moscow to which foreigners are permitted to take their cars.
It has two counter-windows. Private motorists queue up at one of the windows, and the other line is for those with company-owned cars. Since the Moscow population contains - by conservative estimates - something like two million foreigners, it is always rush-hour at the foreigners' vehicle inspection station.
An hour passed, and the line of dozens of people had not moved forward an inch, because the computer was out of order.
At that point a militsiya [police] officer I happened to know passed by and gave me an invaluable tip: another desk had been opened in the basement, and if I went down there things would go more smoothly.
Downstairs I was immediately one-on-one with a bored militsiya major. He asked for my passport, visa, driving licence, vehicle registration documents, and my compulsory third-party insurance papers.
Then came a question I had not bargained for: "Are you mentally and physically in the condition required for driving a motor vehicle?"
A simple "Yes" was not good enough for him. There is a regulation in Russia that states that holders of a driving licence must be able to prove their physical and mental roadworthiness by means of a document carried on their person.
This document requires a statement by five medical specialists, and is valid for three years. Thereafter it must be renewed. I did not have this piece of paper about me. Game over.
Nothing for it, then, but to head for the nearest private medical centre.
Since I was in a hurry and was willing to shell out an additional EUR 100 for the docket and the check-ups, I was able to leapfrog over the queue.
The first specialist I encountered was a narcologist.
At this point I should have had with me a certificate from the health authorities in my home town solemnly attesting to the fact that I am not a drug-user. It would be hard to imagine getting a piece of paper like this from a Finnish health centre under any circumstances, and certainly not by e-mail.
The narcologist took the hint and asked me if I used drugs, and then marked down my negative response in the box on the paper. Then he ordered me to stand with my legs together, to raise my arms in front of me, close my eyes, and touch my nose with my forefinger.
I accomplished this to his satisfaction and I was through with clean papers.
The next doctor listened to my heart and lungs, and the third checked out my eyesight.
The task of doctor No.4 was to test my hearing by whispering at me.
"Passažir, tridtsatpjat", the doctor whispered with his hands over his mouth.
I got the "passenger" part alright, but I didn't quite catch the "tridtsatpjat", which means "thirty-five" in Russian, and I tossed back something that sounded about right.
"Tridtsatpjat ne slisno", the doctor declared in a loud voice, announcing that I had not heard the thirty-five. Then the ear specialist leaned downwards once more and whispered the same word into his cupped hands. "Tridtsatpjat", I replied, and I was through test No.4.
The fifth doctor introduced himself simply as a therapist. His task was to ascertain general capability to get behind the wheel, in particular the licence-holder's mental equilibrium.
This was determined by my grimacing through clenched teeth and by showing my tongue and both of my shins.
Finally we ran through the touching-the-nose exercise again in a standing position. This time I was a bit over-eager, and my first stab hit my upper lip. A little concentration, and at the second time of asking my forefinger struck home confidently on the end of my nose.
The result of my tour of the physicians was as expected. Nothing was found that could prevent me from driving a car.
The reception-desk clerk slapped a few stamps on the sheaf of papers and thrust them into my hand. The inspection was over. It took a grand total of 12 minutes.
I marched out of the medical centre feeling very satisfied. It had been much more exciting than a trip to the amusement park.
Now if only I could get the car tested.
Helsingin Sanomat / First published in print 12.12.2005
Eyewitness is a series in which Helsingin Sanomat correspondents abroad write about their experiences in the country where they are stationed.
MIKA PARKKONEN / Helsingin Sanomat