How to catch a cab in Moscow:

  1. Step to curb
  2. Start waving
  3. The very first car will stop

Guaranteed. Sometimes a car stopped even before my arm reached a 45-degree angle. Then the hard bargaining starts.

The cab pulls over to the curb of the Sadovaya-Koltso Ring-Road, just outside the American Express office. I pull out the wad of bills and the ritual begins—"a one, one zero, two, three, four, five zeros, a ten thousand ruble note"—as each note is laboriously identified as a candidate to be used as payment. The notes’ designers must have taken quiet sadistic satisfaction in gazing at long strings of zeros esthetically unsullied by user-friendly innovations such as periods (European equivalent for a comma). "Only six more of these suckers to go!" After about the third note, a low rumble of curses becomes audible from the front seat, joined by a dissonant chorus of horns from the cars behind, all Moscow’s gentle way of helping the traveler’s concentration. Unintimidated, I plod on, "Damn if I’m going to give one of these bandits a 100000 ruble note by mistake." When you think about it, with the equivalent of $20 in rubles, you could buy the entire Monopoly Board, hotels included. Potential travelers to Moscow with limited time before their departure are urged to take a speed reading course instead of a Russian language course.