Universal currency. A pack of Kent cigarettes could work wonders. In the winter of 1979, I was on a microbus, travelling with a 70-year old American: Bucharest-Brasov-Sibiu. In Sibiu, the bus dropped us and we had to take the train to Oradea. We found 1st class tickets, none was available for the sleeping car. The old man was tired, said he would take a nap. I put him in, and went out the moment the train started moving; I pulled myself up on the stairs of a sleeping car and clang there against the door. I was so lucky, I could have stayed like that till the next station. I knocked on the door, and the car man let me in. ?Could you help me, I said, I need two sleeper seats, or at least one, I am with an American.? ?Haven?t got any, go to my colleague over there.? I did but the door was locked. I started pulling at it. I was still banging on the damned door when at the other end of the wagon hall the superintendent appeared on the other side of the glass. I cried to him for a place to sleep. I got a blunt no. So I took out two Kent packs and waved them before the windowpane. He rushed to open the door and came in sauntering; I say, ?I need two sleeper seats, I?m with someone.? He says, ?Do you want them up or down?? (I. H., 48)
Kent and coffee were gold in the ?80s. They could solve extremely important problems for you. A Kent pack cost around the 20th part of an average salary, if not more. I once needed to buy a pack for a relative of mine who was in hospital. I searched the whole town for it! I had 25 lei in my pocket (that was how much it cost back then, if I?m not mistaken). I went next to the Athenée Palace Hotel and was immediately approached by dealers. I must have been out of my mind. I gave one of them the money and waited for him to bring the pack. He wasn?t coming, so I went in. On the first floor I stopped and stood there near the stairs, and feigned taking notes or something, there was a lot of Securitate around. The man came out of one room. ?What do you think you?re doing? I say. Keep me waiting like that. Give me the Kent!? He went in and wouldn?t show up again. After a while I went in, too. The room had another door on the other side. He?d gone? This happened around 1982.