Saturday, September 19, 2009

From Russia With Sunscreen

This Summer, my bike chain kept popping off.  Sometimes it would take 30 seconds to fix.  Sometimes it would take 5 minutes.  I was on my way to meet some friends at a bar on Atlantic Avenue to play the lobster game, riding extra slow on the bike path (still speeding past 6-person canopy bikes full of tourists), when "CLANK".  Dammit. 

Not wanting to get grease all over my hands and safari shorts, I walked it over to a nearby hotel's bike rental stand.  It wasn't busy and I was sure the attendant would be nice enough to fix it. 

"Hey!  How's it going?"

He looked at me like I was aiming a flaming arrow at him.

"Could you put my chain back on?  It's not a rental, but I -"

"No."

"Awwww, come on.  I don't want to get my hands all greasy.  Don't you have some sort of tool or -"

"I, eh...I can not do."

"Here...(digging in pocket)...I'll give you two dollars!" 

"Eh...Sorry, no."

"Oh, Allllrrright."

"You're welcome."

I rolled my bike a few steps away and fiddled with the chain until it was back on.  Riding away, I waved with my greasy fingers and said "thanks".  He didn't wave back.  He was Russian.

Russian or Eastern European.  Thick accent.  Stocky.  Piercing gaze.  No nonsense.  A fondness for folk songs played on a balalaika - or Depeche Mode.  He was one of the 18,000,000 young, foreign girls and guys that materialized at the oceanfront this summer.  They'd been heading to the Outer Banks in droves for years, but I guess they figured Virginia Beach was closer to the Norfolk airport and there are more places to work - hotels, gift shops, bike rental stands, restaurants, "your name engraved on a grain of rice" booths, amusement parks, etc.

Unfortunately, after the sun sets, Virginia Beach isn't nearly as sleepy and safe as the Outer Banks.  On August 10, a young woman from Belarus was attacked in the woods near her apartment on 24th Street.A guy followed her from the resort area, waited until nobody was around, and pulled a gun on her. Watch this.

He still hasn't been found.  Let's hope that his life keeps getting more and more miserable until he's finally ripped apart by a fumple of rabid raccoons in the next hour or so.  UPDATE: They found him.  Christopher Minifee.  Watch this.

I wish somebody had been walking with her.  I wouldn't advise anyone - tourist or local - to venture west of Pacific Avenue alone after 10 P.M.  It's a creepy, lawless place.  Lots of shadowy alleys where weirdos hang out - littering, dealing low-grade taffy, burping, singing doo-wop off key, stalking their prey, etc.

The article states that she was participating in an international work outreach program sponsored by the Virginia Beach Hotel-Motel Association.  I wrote the VBHMA asking for information about the program on August 14.  Until I get a response - this one will do.

Dear Tidewater Log,

      Thank you for your interest in the International Outreach Summer Work Program.  We employ Eastern European students at Oceanfront businesses because they're cheap, obedient, and dependable.  If we had local high school students working at these places during the summer they would complain about the pay, be rude to customers, show up late or not come in at all, ask for days off, and give freebies to their friends. 
       The young European workers all live 6 or 7 to an apartment that we provide near the resort area.  They don't get minimum wage because they aren't American citizens.  They won't complain about the hours or conditions because they're stuck here.  All they have to do is take tourists' money and give them ice cream, bicycles by the hour, t-shirts, or ferris wheel rides in return.  If they seem cold and unfriendly, please remember that they aren't here to make friends with locals.  What are you doing hanging around the Boardwalk anyway?!
       As for your question about the possibility of the countries we get our Summer employees from having a work exchange program seeking workers from the U.S., I am sorry to say they do not.  Why would they want lazy Americans who complain about everything?!

                                                                                                     Sincerely,

                                                                                                   Sandy Foote




   P.S. We, too, were shocked to hear about what happened to the young girl from Belarus on August 10.  However, it should be noted that we are not responsible for transporting these young men and women to and from work.  We're not a taxi service!

   P.P.S. Please ignore any ties that the Virginia Beach Hotel-Motel Association might have with Viktar Krus and the Russian immigrant worker scam that unraveled recently.  You know, this thing -  

"According to the 98 page indictment obtained by WAVY.com, the illegal immigration network began at a modest apartment, located at 1017 Chinquapin Lane. The apartment was rented by Viktar Krus who owned V&K Services. The feds accuse him of filing fraudulent petitions, bringing in and keeping in foreign-born workers. They worked at the resort strip as housekeepers, cashiers, fast food workers, and material handlers."


http://www.wavy.com/dpp/news/local_wavy_norfolk_illegalimmigrants_2009116

http://www.examiner.com/human-rights-in-national/will-virginia-beach-be-a-sanctuary-for-human-traffickers