I was at my local grocery store this weekend, standing in line at the checkout. I saw that the line next to mine was moving faster. With stealthy Soviet queue analysis skills acquired only by years of living with Russian parents, I scanned the lines, assessed the length of time, and made a beeline into the line next to mine. I got through the checkout maybe ten seconds faster than I would have in the other line. I won.
These are the types of stories you always hear about how hard people had to hustle in the Soviet Union to avoid the staggering bureaucracy and inefficiencies. Apparently, even twenty years after the fall of communism, this is still the case. Miriam Elder writes:
Finally, it is your turn. You put six items of clothing on the counter. Oksana Alexandrovna lets out a sigh. This would be the point where you would normally get your receipt and go. But this is Russia. It’s time to get to work. A huge stack of forms emerges. Oksana Alexandrovna takes a cursory glance at your clothes. Then the examination – and the detailed documentation – begins…. There are 20 boxes that could be ticked. Is this sweater soiled? Is it mildly soiled? Very soiled? Perhaps it is corroded? Yellowed? Marred by catches in the thread? All this, and more, is possible. The appropriate boxes are ticked. But that is not all – a further line leaves room for “Other Defects and Notes”. By now, you have spent less time wearing the sweater than Oksana Alexandrovna has spent examining it.
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