Just a quick note from the front lines of wannabe-Europa today; I thought I’d point out two of the brighter lines between Europe (and by this I mean “civilization”) and the Former Soviet Union. Consideration of the difference between Europe and Asia will be addressed at a later date (Europe: stinky cheese and good booze; Asia: eating bugs and masturbating to tentacle-porn). And I’m not talking about borderline (or, more appropriately, basket) cases like Azerbaijan that hold themselves out as “europeanizing” but when asked to explain any generally backwards facet of their life, they attribute it to their “Asian mentality.” Like the Japanese or the Koreans, who also can’t come to work on time… Oh, wait, that was… NOT those Asians.
No, I’m talking about places like Georgia, which like to think of themselves as part of Europe. I mean, if Romania and Albania can aspie, why not Georgia? And I’ll admit, they’re close. So close. But that Soviet influence lingers. Like that little kid who got molested by his uncle, .. wait, bad metaphor. Anyway, post-Soviet states.
1) Stamps. People, people, people. Europeans do not use stamps. Americans do not use stamps. This is worse than phone syndrome (everyone in the former Soviet states with any power over any other poor post-Soviet fucker has a telephone; the number of telephones increases as does the power over others. So you’ll get folks with five or six phones on their desk, four of which are visibly connected to exactly nothing). Enough with the stamps, already. We’re laughing at you. You might as well have t-shirts that say “I was molested by Moscow for 70 years and all I got was electrification and these stupid stamps.” Enough already. Nobody wants to see the scar tissue on your ass.
The Georigan customs have, at the time of this writing, been sitting on an item of neither particular value nor significance – a laptop battery – that I had sent here through DHL. Now setting aside whether local DHL folks should or should not given a sewer-rat enema (apparently anyone who knows anything is on vacation, and they’ve left the owner’s girlfriend at the desk – she’s easy on the eyes, but knows nothing and refuses to pick up the phone; the Germans are known for their efficiency, but their minions not so much) for not saying that my battery had entered the country but was held up at customs, the question is: why won’t customs release the laptop battery?
It’s got no stamp. This is a new regulation, apparently (r-i-i-i-i-i-i-ght); apparently any item that meets some requirement (what requirement? Hint: when you talk to two customs guys and get two answers, that means: neither of them knows shit, except that there’s money in your pocket that they wish were in theirs) you need the original stamp from the sender. This is getting unfucked, but wow, what an easy hurdle to overcome: if a country doesn’t use stamps, don’t require stamps to be present.
And please, no bullshit about Georgia being independent and allowed to make any laws they want. This is a reality check. If there is no stamp in the originating country, demanding a stamp makes you look stupid. Especially when the originating country is the U.S.A., and your main office is at the airport – at the end of George W. Bush Avenue. With a big picture of the U.S. president looking at you. You need to have a heightened sentivity to which end of the leash you’re on.
2) Bad service. This is true everywhere. In “civilized” places like New York, folks even pay a premium for this shit. However, in the former Soviet Union, it’s not an affectation like Paris Hilton’s little suppository dog or anorexia. It’s just a sign that you’ve got the post-Soviet mentality that is as sure a sign of blunt anal trauma as a prolapsed rectum: if nobody can fire you, why should you do your job?
In Baku, I used to go to two restaurants all the time: one called Star Turk, and one called Paul’s. I didn’t go to Star because their Turkish food was better than anyone else’s (though it was), but because the waitresses knew that I would give ’em 15% as a tip, and conducted themselves accordingly – I got damned good service, and they knew that was why I came back. Smart folks. Paul’s was German food under German ownership, and while the guys who ran the place were awfully nice, I mean, imagine working for a German and being a slacker. Anyway, both good places; anywhere else in Baku, if you’re not there to get drunk or to make fun of the Azeris who aspire to be Turks (go Caliban!), you might as well not go.
However, in Tbilisi, there’s a bar and restaurant called Paradise Lost that suffers from the same problem, partway. It’s the best bar in Tbilisi if you’re into lounging: the beer’s kind of cheap, and the place is lit perfectly. The decor is props from Georgian films, so it looks like Applebee’s, only more interesting, if you’re a xenophile (and if you weren’t, why would you be in Tbilisi?) So: great bar. And they’ve got a kitchen. Breed’s Rule #23: It is always better to eat in a bar than to drink in a restaurant.
The problem is that the service sucks. I mean, it’s embarrassing. For everyone. Went for dinner accidentally once, and on purpose (don’t ask) the second time. Second time, not only did the food generally suck a dog’s ass ’til it bled, they didn’t figure out that they didn’t have what we ordered until 45 minutes after we ordered it, I shit you not. I did have fun getting the waitress to help me understand the process that the whole evening went along, and why she thought charging us for things that we didn’t get – that were, in fact, nowhere to be found in the restaurant – made sense to her. To say nothing of the tip.
Anyway, Paradise Lost. Don’t go, ever. You’ll only encourage the Soviets to stay.