Russia, February 28, 1999
The key to the universe was lost!Monday is the perfect day to discuss the Russian klooch problem. Klooch is "key" in Russian, and they are valued even more than money here. Last Friday, my housemate Ann, had to sleep at a friends and I had to kick in our interior door because of the Russian klooch effect. Before I tell you why our door died for us, I should give you a bit of history about keys and doors here.
To get into a Russian apartment, you have to pass through several doors of varying strength, but all with locks. The first door, a thick steel one opening onto the street, is usually a "domaphone" door, or a door with a special key and an intercom. A special key, impossible to make (it is magnetic) and hard to find opens this door, or you can use the intercom to call the apartment you are visiting, and they will "buzz you in." Sometimes, in dire straight, you can buzz random apartments and try to convince the occupants to let you in, which usually works.
The second door is usually another thick steel door and it is at the beginning of a shared hallway. This door does not have an intercom, just a huge lock and key. The next door, the actual door to the apartment, is also a thick steel door with a big key and a peephole. Last, but not least, there is an interior door, just inside the main door, that is used to keep out dust and drafts from the hallway. Each of these doors has a key, but not everyone always has keys to all the doors.
Keys are hard to come by here. I personally know of only two places in Moscow where keys can be made, and not even the most connected Russian can produce an extra domaphone key. I have seen grown women break down in tears where they loose a key, or worse, an entire keyring. When you receive a key here, that is the day you are considered a true friend or part of the family.
Now for the story of why I was kicking in my door at 8:30 am.
Wednesday night a friend of ours spent the night. The next morning she got up after all of us, so instead of waiting for her to leave, I gave her the keys with instructions of how to get out of the house and drop the keys off at my work. She didn't follow directions too well, and locked the inner door to our apartment. Thursday night Ann came home and after opening the outer door, she was confronted by the locked inner door. This is where the fun begins. She did not have a key for the inner door, none of us did. The landlord had only one key and would not give it to us. Ann tried to pick the lock, but gave up after a while ad went across town to her friend's house for the night.
After spending the night out enjoying myself, I came home late Friday morning to a note on the door from Ann. As I opened the outer door, I saw that she had tried and failed to open the inner door. Not one to repeat the frustrations of others, I thought a moment about my options, then, just to resolve the situation quickly, I gave the door a good swift kick. Either I am a bit stronger than I think, or the door was really weak, because it exploded inward and broke into several pieces. Over the shattered door I stepped, just as my neighbours emerged from their apartment to see what all the noise was about. They had a good laugh at the crazy Americans living next to them before they departed for work.
The landlord came by and put in a new door and new lock on Sunday, giving me a full set of keys, and a bill for $180. Thanks Vladimir!