One important quality of any good Russian citizen is the ability to scrounge, scavenge, or barter. Even when essentials are scarce, there's always a way to get what you want if you just know where to look, or whom to ask. My collegue Mikhail is no exception.
Shortly after the Soviet Union collapsed, the government needed money and was unloading equipment at rock bottom prices. At that time, Mikhail told me of a deal I just couldn't pass up: A "friend" of his came into possession of some decomissioned military equipment and was offering to unload an actual Russian Mig.
"What on Earth would I do with a fighter jet??" I asked. "My commute is only a few miles and I get along with most of my neighbors." He said he didn't know what to do with it, but the price was so good I just shouldn't pass it up.
Having never been in the market for a piece of Cold War weaponry, I wasn't quite sure what the going rate was. How much do you pay for a multi-million dollar fighter jet? I got my answer: $35,000. Plus shipping. Not much more than the price of a new minivan.
Though the offer was tempting, I decided to pass. It probably wouldn't fit in the driveway, and those nebulous "shipping" costs sounded menacing. Plus, I'm not sure if the 25 hours of flight time I have towards my private pilot's license entitles me to fly a multi-engine fighter. Even still, it's nice to know that, if I do ever need one, I know where to go. Plus, Mikhail (seriously) told me where I could get a deal on an abandoned nuclear reactor, but I'll save that for a different story.