Thursday, September 10, 2015

A #ThrowbackThursday Post about my Sordid Criminal Past

I was perusing the archives of my blog, marveling at how the quality of my posts went downhill after I sold my books. Who knew writing novels under deadline would drain so much creative energy? Alas, 'tis true. *sighs*

Then I thought, hey, I bet a lot of visitors here haven't even read my earlier posts, and might be surprised to learn I can write about something that isn't, you know, one of the books I'm trying to sell!

Then I thought, hmm, #ThrowbackThursday is a good excuse to dig up something from the past and post it now. (I'm quick that way.)

So, here ya go. A relic from 2013 relating an even older relic from my dubious past (geez, I hope there's a statute of limitations on my criminal behavior youthful antics...):

My Sordid Criminal Past

WARNING: The following post contains such words as "h*t p*le" and "t!t" and "chickensh!t" and "bad*ss." Read at your own peril.

(Oh, come on. This is me. How bad can it really be?)

Even before my walk on the wild side as an almost-gunrunner in Ireland, I had already dipped briefly into a life of crime. Difficult though it will be for you to believe it:
I am an international smuggler.

There. *bites knuckle* I've said it. Think of me what you will. But it's not my fault! I was young. I was impetuous.  

I was Double-Dog Dared.

And we've already seen what depths I will stoop to when dared, haven't we? So you can hardly be surprised to learn that this behavioral tendency has its roots in my murky past.

It was my junior year of college, and I was studying abroad in Stockholm. (TG says he studied a broad in college, too--several, in *waggles eyebrows*) Over spring break a group of us international students went Russia. We stayed five days in Moscow and four in St. Petersburg. Since we were tagging along with a high school study group, you'd think we couldn't manage to get into much trouble, wouldn't you?

Yeah, you'd think that. But you'd be wrong.

Listen, all I can say is, it's not that tough for five college girls to ditch one harried high school chaperone, who was naturally way more concerned with keeping tabs on his underage charges than on those of us who were supposed to be "mature." The poor man may even have been under the impression we would actually help him ride herd on the teenagers.

[Pause for interlude of hysterical laughter.]

Shortly after we arrived in Moscow (getting there was a harrowing experience in itself--I'm not sure how it is today, but back then there was a good reason Aeroflot was commonly known as "Aeroflop" *shudders*), one of our motley crew of college girls--let's call her TUNS (short for "Thinks Up Naughty Stuff")--decided it would be fun to take a cab to the nearest fancy restaurant and dine spectacularly on caviar and vodka.

Well, the only thing was, the exchange rate from Swedish crowns to Russian rubles was not so great. None of us poor college students could afford it.

"Ha!" says Tuns. "No problem. I know a guy..."

Know a guy she did. He was a Pole (as in from Poland, not a staff, and quite classically handsome, if physical considerations are important to you) from our International Swedish language class. He happened to be visiting his Russian cousin at the same time as our trip.

What a coincidence! I'm sure the timing of his trip had nothing to do with the fact that Tuns had been seeing him on the sly back in Sweden. He was married to a Swedish woman, purely, he assured us all, to gain residency. Didn't stop him from trying to date me, Tuns, and every other American girl in our language class. I think he had aspirations of U.S. citizenship. Tuns had no intention of marrying him, even if he did divorce his Swedish wife, but she couldn't see why that should stop her from letting him *cough* try to persuade her.

Long story short (or is it already too late for that?), Hot Pole's [Heh-heh. I said "Hot Pole."] Russian cousin was a taxi driver who dabbled in, um, unofficial currency exchange. Apparently, this sort of "moonlighting" was quite common then. Might still be, for all I know. He gave us an exchange rate approximately ten times better than the official one, assuring us that "nobody really minded" as long as we didn't try to take any Russian currency out of the country with us. We'd have to spend it all while we were there.

This did not strike us as an especially bad hardship. *blink*

Russian Cousin also said he could give us a very good rate on a cab ride to a nice restaurant. So five of us girls, plus Hot Pole (heh), squeezed into (heh-heh) a tee-niny cab, built to hold three passengers, tops.

Have I mentioned this was March, and that this particular March in Moscow was colder than the proverbial witch', bosom? (Bosom is better than tit, right? I'm working on my restraint.) With four-foot snowbanks along the sides of the roads? Also, apparently it's illegal for taxi drivers to over-stuff their cabs, drive without their meters on, and then not report the income to whoever the Russian equivalent to Uncle Sam is?

Yeah. Well, it is, it is, and it is. So we spent the whole cab ride caroming around icy streets, avoiding cop cars, and finally wound up slamming head-on into a snowbank. Fun stuff.

To give Russian Cousin his due, he did get us to the restaurant...after we all helped dig is car out of the snow. And the restaurant was spectacular. The food was amazing, the wait staff so attentive we felt like celebrities, and the vodka flowed freely enough that none of us felt our whiplash.

But back to the main point of this post. After lots more antics along those lines, one of them involving all of us getting kicked out of Lenin's tomb for inappropriate laughter (what? he looked like a reject from Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum), we found we had some rubles left over as we packed to head back to Sweden.

Tuns told us the rubles would make wonderful mementos of our trip to Russia, and that she fully intended to take hers with her. Went so far as to say if we didn't do the same, we'd bechickenshits, and she would spend the rest of the semester clucking at us whenever she passed us in the hall.

Then she did it. She double-dog dared us. 

What choice did we have? The other girls stuffed rubles in their bras, but I thought that seemed too obvious. So I pried open my dental floss case, folded up my 5-ruble bill really small, crammed it beneath the wound-up white thread, and closed the case back up, good as new. Squeezed a small blob of toothpaste on the outside case for authenticity's sake, and to discourage any official who happened to rifle through my bags from actually touching it. (I thought that was a rather clever touch.)

Then I proceeded to have heart palpitations until we were safely through airport security. No one checked any of our bags, but I didn't breathe easily until we were back on Swedish soil. Badassthough I am, I don't think I'm cut out for a life of crime.

How about you guys? Have you ever broken an international law? Do share in the comments. I swear your secret is safe with me.


Susan Flett Swiderski said...

Geez, I'm glad you re-posted this, because I missed it the first time around. It would've been a tragedy... a tragedy, I tell you!... if I never got a second chance at it. (With posts like this, it's easy to see why you got that publishing contract.)

Anyhow, no, I haven't broken any international laws that I know of, but that's mainly because I've never been outside of the country. If anyone ever double dog dared me to do something... especially back in my younger days... I'm afraid I wouldn't have been able to resist, either.

Fun fun post!

Linda G. said...

Susan -- Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it. These days, of course, I only write about stuff like that, being decorous old broad I am. ;)

Diane Henders said...

Ha! I must've missed this one before... or maybe not; my memory is spectacularly bad. Anyway, it gave me a good chuckle. The only thing I've ever smuggled across international borders was a vile head cold. For some reason they didn't seem to want to confiscate it at Customs...

Patsy said...

Well gosh, I'm shocked!

Nope, never done anything illegal, bad, imoral or naughty. Pretty much all I do is write fiction ;-)

Linda G. said...

Diane -- Ah, germs, the eternal traveler stowaways. :p

Patsy -- Does the fiction you write include the first sentence of your comment? ;)

Anne Gallagher said...

How in God's name did I miss this story? It's fantastic. I love the intrigue, the Russian cousin, the Hot Pole. Oh, can I steal some details please for my next book, or did you already use them?

And I hear you on trying to come up with decent blog posts once you start publishing. I wish I had some I could use from five years ago, but mine were all sh*t back then too.