In one of his books, Jeremy Clarkson said that Russians had “special lanes for the rich.” Which, sadly, is true, even though there are almost no “special lanes” left. As a matter of fact, it appears that any lane can be turned into a special one just by a small flashing light.
Meegalka is a flasher installed on police cars, ambulances and all other kind of emergency vehicles. In Russia, emergency cars include those owned by remotely important functioneers, government people, the State Duma, Senate, highest court functioneers and many, many more.
The owners of meegalka-enabled cars become effectively untouchable on the roads: they can drive the wrong lanes, ignore the traffic lights and—in fact—any other regulations as such. The most important of those owners, in order to avoid traffic jams, can even call the road police to help them drive through the jams. This would usually mean closing down a street or two to clear the way of an important functioneer. And if it means paralyzing the traffic in the capital’s downtown—so be it.
No wonder that the meegalkahs and their owners become the objects of hatred from everyone who doesn’t have one. They are also the major cause of numerous traffic problems we have in the cities. So it isn’t surprising that radio stations and newspapers even launch anti-meegalka campaigns to find and clear every unauthorized meegalkah installment in the city.
In their defence: they have to go to their important jobs and afterwards to go back to their families. Citizens can wait when it’s about such state-important deeds. And they should keep silent and complain not. But really, should they?
Not so long ago the Russian segment of the Internet was hyped by two incidents that involved meegalka owners. This is the tragedy that set off the new wave of hatred towards the people who break the rules with flashing lights on their cars.
On 25 February, 2010, the Mercedes of Lukoil’s VP Anatoliy Barkov, in an attempt to overtake a traffic jam by driving into a meeting lane, crashed into a Citroen driven by Olga Aleksandrina. Her mother, honorary doctor Vera Sidelnikova, was at the passenger seat. Both women died. The Mercedes owner got off easy.
Right after the accident police department sent the information to the press that the Citroen was the cause of the accident. Yeah, right, because you are not supposed to crash into things that go head-on to you at 60 miles per hour on the wrong lane.
Afterwards, when it became clear the public wasn’t buying that crap, the officials took a neutral side: awaiting the court’s decision. The case has recently been closed, with the resolution against the deceased party. Because Lukoil is an oil and gas company. They can afford buying courts and judges in this country.
See also: Noize MC
Noize MC, a popular Russian rap performer, had something to say very soon:
This next video is of no accident. But the situation that led to it could easily provoke an even bigger tragedy.
This was shot at the cellphone camera by a businessman Andrey Hartley. He was driving along the Kutuzovsky avenue in Moscow when he saw a meegalka-enabled BMW driving in the opposite direction right in front of him. Of course, the important person was shocked by the act of civil disobedience and got even more shocked when the citizen approached his car with a cellphone camera on.
Hartley: Hi, please introduce yourself
BMW owner: What? Introduce myself?
BMW driver (trying to take the cellphone away from Hartley): Do you have the right? Do you have any right to take pictures?
The next car driver: You want to fight? You want to fight me?
BMW driver: Asshole
Hartley: That’s fine, I filmed everything, calm down!
This video had over 168,000 views on YouTube. Not surprisingly, no official comments from the statespeople followed. But they could have at least posted a comment on YouTube—or gave it a 5-star rating.
The person in the meegalka-enabled car was Vladimir Shevchenko, president Medvedev’s councilor. He already called this situation “a deliberate provocation.” The only authorized commentary of Leonid Olshansky, a lawyer, states that the advisor actually had a right to drive as he did according to the laws. So, even though it remained unsaid, the logical ending of this statement is that the owner of Ford Focus has disobeyed the laws and might even get fined or arrested.
It’s like in that movie called “Don’t Be a Menace to South Central.” He could be arrested for being black on a Friday night for driving in his lane at a normal speed when a functioneer was nearby.
You can call Russia a very corrupted country. It may seem that none of the state systems are here to work the way they are intended to. It may seem that the only way to make them work either way is to give them a little unofficial push. Be it a bribe to get your child into a daycare or putting on a flashing light to break the traffic rules.
On May 19, the newly elected Russian president Vladimir Putin signed a decree limiting the number of cars that can be equipped with roof-mounted beacons from 1,000 to 569. More than a half of that number is to be distributed among the Federal Security Service and Ministry of Internal Affairs.
On one hand, it seems like good news: from now on, only 569 drivers can act like assholes and be exempt from all rules and traffic regulations. That’s half the original asshole count.
On the other hand, the mere existence of this special class of rich and powerful seems medieval, so the meegalkas should be banned altogether, and left only for special services vehicles, like ambulances, police and firefighters. However, the civilized and rational solutions don’t seem to work at this end of the world.
The meegalkas’ owners have been creating all sorts of trouble during their time in power. Having absolutely no regard for the Road Code, their cars provoke accidents, create traffic problems and kill and injure pedestrians. Other drivers hate this situation, which inevitably leads to emerging class warfare. But now it’s mostly peaceful: common drivers just don’t give way to meegalka-equipped cars, leaving them no choice but to stand in the same traffic. That tactics seems to have positive results: B&V staff have been noticing more and more beacon-owners that do not use their privilege.