July 23 2004
By Kevin O’Flynn
Suren doesn’t look like the type to get lifts off dalnoboishchiki, or
long-distance truck drivers.
Anyone who has seen the gangster film “Boomer” would understand that
preconceptions of that trade are somewhat skewed toward the negative
Suren, however, is a neat, polite young man who looks as if he phones
his parents every time he comes home late.
But ever since he first heard of the eurobomzh, a hip way of
referring to European hitchhikers, Suren has been dreaming of heading
off to the wilds, or at least to France and Italy. On the road, thumb
out and not much in his pocket.
“I don’t like staying in one place,” he says.
Suren has only been in Moscow for 11 years. His family, Armenian by
nationality, left Georgia for Moscow when his father got a job with a
He began his travels only a couple of years ago, hitching a lift from
St. Petersburg to Moscow. After 24 hours of bumping up and down, he
was back in Moscow via a friendly dalnoboishchik.
Itching to hit the road again, he asked his friends to come along,
only to find out that they were more interested in package tours. So
he turned to Bolshoi Gorod to find a fellow traveler.
Not that Suren will depart before it’s time. First, he’d like to get
to know his traveling companion to make sure he doesn’t get dumped
after a fight in the middle of a field in Bordeaux. And anyway, his
passport just expired.
Soon after his ad appeared, Suren started receiving oblique text
messages on his cellphone.
“Do you know what the sea smells like?” Or perhaps it was the less
poetic “d u no wot c smells lk?”
Suren replied to the mysterious texter, and a stilted conversation
began lurching back and forth.
Even as he spoke to me, Suren was getting messages.
“In the morning, the dew smells of snow.”
And then, “Do you know who the ancestors of zebras are?”
I may have inadvertently ruined Suren’s chances with the zebra
ponderer by joking that it sounded like he was trying to woo Suren,
and suggesting that he answer, “I am not Darwin.”
“He’s obviously not Russian,” Suren said a minute later when the next
“I inderstand. Sarry for the bother,” the cellphone read.
Looking rather confused, Suren added, “I don’t think I’ll get in
touch with him again.”
Odd comments, poetry, weird foreigners giving advice, zebras and
mispelled words. Perfect training for his future eurobomzh days.