by Andy Rooney, Avon Books, 1984, 0-380-69885-4
[p165] Russian Bombs/Russian Hotels
You can go into a strange restaurant and make a good guess about
how the food is going to taste long before they've actually served you
any of it. There are telltale signs that give you advanced warning.
when the rolls or the bread comes, you know for sure how the whole
meal is going to be.
This idea can be extended to everything and everybody. You can
tell a lot about the whole from a small part. You can tell a lot
about how a person does everything from watching him or her do just
one thing. we are all victims of our own character and we find it
impossible to do something that isn't characteristic of us.
This idea applies to whole countries just as certainly as it
applies to individuals. We keep doing things like Americans, the
Germans keep doing things like Germans, the French like the French.
The President said the other night that the Soviet Union has ``a
definite margin of superiority'' over the United States in nuclear
arms. Using my theory about being able to tell a lot from a sample,
I doubt it. I've spent a good deal of time in Russia and hold some
opinions about the people and the nation that no one can talk me out
One of my firmly held beliefs is that the Russians are not
naturally mechanical people. They may acquire the ability and the y
may be better at it than they used to be but working with machinery
does not come naturally to the average Russian. They have a great
heritage in music and literature and the arts in general but they
build terrible automobiles and don't know how to fix them when they
One of the most incredible travel experiences I've ever had is a
week in a Russian hotel in Moscow. The second time I stayed there
they had installed telephones in every room but the telephones were
not connected through any hotel switchboard. There was no way for
anyone to call the hotel and be connected ith me by phone in my room.
It had a number just like any other telephone in a home in Moscow.
Does this sound like a country that is apt to be ahead of us in
The Russians, in their desparate attempt to get hard, Western
currency away from tourist, opened what they call ``Dollar Stores.''
They put their best merchandise in these small shops located in their
best hotels and offer it for sale in exchange for dollars, not
rubles. Russian citizens can't buy there.
I've bought nail clippers, razors, razor blades and ballpoint pens
in those dollar stores and I've carefully inspected such items as
cameras, camera lenses, binoculars, cigarette lighters, scissors and
watches there. The best Russian goods are poor by our standards.
The workmanship is inferior and the design is either imitative or
This isn't being written by some blindly anti-Russian nut. I don't
hate the Russians. I hate their oppressive government. As a matter
of fact, I kind of like the Russians. They're often wonderfully
free-spirited and fun to be with but, for whatever facet of their
national character it is, they do a lot of things badly. From what
I've seen of their binoculars and their ballpoint pens, I'd guess
nuclear weapons would be one of the things they make poorly. There
are things Americans don't do well, either, but these are different
Obviously the Russians have learned how to do some things. Their
space programs is not as sophisticated as ours but it works. I have
no doubt that their nuclear bombs go off with a big bang and I'm also
sure they've built rockets that will take their missiles to New York.
What I can't believe, from what I know firsthand about the Russians,
is that they have more and better nuclear weapons that we do.
I can't help myself from thinking that the President is just trying
to scare us into approving a huge defense budget. If the Russians
could build great nuclear bombs, their hotels wouldn't be as poorly
constructed as they are. I go into a place for a week and judge a
whole country by one hotel. The Russians would be accurate in saying
that's the kind of person I am.