Summer 1993. Dad and I, and some others, had flown from Riga, Latvia into Moscow’s Sheremetyevo (Шереметьево) Airport, just outside of city center. We had been at Rick Renner’s church the previous day and had a wonderful time with his family and staff. We had flown back into Moscow to catch an international flight to the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh in southwestern Azerbaijan, to meet with persecuted Christians there. However, we had to switch airports, heading way out of town to the Domodedovo (Домодедово) Airport, and our turnaround was too tight to take a train. A taxi would be required.
With bags in hand, we head to the curb and hail a taxi. After several attempts, we notice that every taxi driver just looked at us and wouldn’t drive up. Then one lone cab drove up, spoke to a sketchy guy in a track suit, and got out and loaded our bags in his car. “Is going to be $100 American dollar to go to airport”, the driver said. (Cue Dad’s head turning red as he suddenly looked like Bob the Tomato from Veggie Tales).
Now at this point, the gopnik (mafia/gangster) in the tracksuit comes swaggering up inserting himself into the confrontation. Dad now realizes what is going on. The taxis all wanted the business, but this young mafioso was extorting all of them and forcing them to run their business through him. As the gopnik stood there, with his hands on his hips, we notice the shape of a handgun in one of his pockets.
Dad saw it, but he didn’t care. He whispers to me “I hope I don’t create an international incident here.” He walked right up to this gangster, poked his index finger in the guys chest and declared, “You will not tell me what I can and cannot do. I will take whatever cab I want to take and I am not paying you $100 dollars.” He looked back and said to me, “Scot, grab the bags and let’s go.” We jumped in another cab, who only charged us $25, and we tore out of there as fast as the driver could take us.