The kominiarz con?

I don’t often talk about my other writing outlets on Polandian because I assume everyone knows how wildly famous and loved I am already—they’re just too polite to mention it. This is also my working theory for why people never ask for my autograph on the street and why strangers never buy me drinks in bars. I regularly get soundly spanked in the comments to my Okiem Angola posts, which I don’t mind at all, partly because I thoroughly deserve it and partly because I don’t understand them well enough to get viscerally angry. I’ve been advised to spierdalaj off to my own country more regularly than a Basra-based Marine. My resistance to the defenders of Poland’s honour is approaching superbug levels. I only bring it up now because of the weird response I got to a recent post about chimney sweeps.

Am I really famous if there are no comments?

The piece was about a recent visit by a kominiarz (chimney sweep) begging for money. If you’ve never been to Poland, or you haven’t been here long, I should explain that Polish chimney sweeps are the subject of various superstitions here—touching their buttons is supposed to bring you good luck. I have no idea why this is and I’m not convinced my life would be better if I did. One of the ways Polish chimney sweeps take advantage of their superpowers is by traipsing around to every building in town and handing out rubbish calendars in exchange for reluctantly accepted cash. If you haven’t read the post, and who would blame you, let me summarise it like this: a drunk man dressed in a chimney sweep’s uniform turned up at my door and offered to exchange an utterly useless piece of paper for a 20-zed note on the grounds that he had saved my life by ensuring my building had proper ventilation. I also made a lot of smart-arsed and irresistibly amusing remarks about superstitions, priests and the advantages of tipping Internet writers with anonymous donations, but the drunkenness, the money and the chimney sweep are the things to focus on here.

I received the usual mix of death threats, offers of marriage and mildly alarming lunacy in the comments, but also a lot of comments claiming that my chimney sweep wasn’t genuine. I was disappointed and confused. Here is a typical comment:

Pozdrawiam kominiarzy

To my kominiarze mamy problem bo ludzie chcą nam guziki wyrywać. Popieram kolegę, żaden prawdziwy kominiarz nie rozdaje kalendarzyków, a tym bardziej nie chodzi pod wpływem alkoholu do pracy bo uprawnienia można stracić (a co gorzej zdrowie,lub życie). A co do przesądu to poczytaj pan sobie na necie. Pozdrawiam kominiarzy.

And my ham-fisted and self-serving translation:

Cheers to chimney sweeps

We chimney sweeps have enough problem with people constantly wanting to play with our buttons. No real chimney sweep would distribute calendars or work under the influence of alcohol because it costs you strength (not to mention health and your life). You can find out about the superstition on the Internet. Cheers to chimney sweeps [in case you didn’t get it the first time]

So my question is this: are there really fake chimney sweeps around and, if not, why are we supposed to give money to real chimney sweeps anyway? I beg, and promise to accept, the wisdom of the Internet on this one.

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13 thoughts on “The kominiarz con?

  1. Weird! I’ve never heard of this one before. However, if someone came along and said they’d cleaned my chimney and prevented the building from being burned down at the last block of flats I lived in, I’d be pretty pissed. I really disliked most of my neighbours there and a little chimney fire would have done them good.

  2. Stefan says:

    Well, maybe this happens in Krakow. I spent 26 years in Łódź and now I’ve been living for 19 in Białystok and no chimney sweep has ever visited me to sell a calendar! Probably the guys in Kraków have more “sense of entrepreneurship” ;)

  3. island1 says:

    That’s weird, we get them at least once a year down here.

  4. island1 says:

    I’m amazed you’ve never come across this. Were you aware of the chimney sweep superstition?

    You don’t even have to have chimneys. Our block is four years old and has no chimneys—they claim to maintain all ventilation systems.

  5. polkaontheisland says:

    I saw a chimney sweep van on the way to an interview lately, and caught my button, but the job is somebody else’s so I guess there’s a reason for lack of superstition in England – yours aren’t magical at all. They fey took their magic for themselves and dragged it down to the London Underground tunnels where they play hat tricks for Martinis.

    The one in your comment said working under unfluence would cause him to lose the license, so I’m confident he’s the real one.

    The calendar one could have been a guy who normally makes money dressing up as Santa, but it’s not Christmas just yet…

    I think you might retaliate by keeping a pumpkin lantern at home and asking for one grosz for good luck.

  6. bob says:

    Since we own a house with 2 chimneys we see our fair share of them. Like the fall time-change, they arrive each year.

    While watching them (each year to see if I could pass the rigorous ‘PHD in Sweeping’ university program, I have it all figured out.

    Besides doing nothing other than pointing a flashlight up the chimney and ogling our valuables they do nothing at all. Where the big scam is is the relationship of that meaningless piece of paper and the homeowner’s insurance policy. No paper and a fire – your fault (even though said paper may have burned with the house and you do not know who the hell the chimney sweep was)

    Gotta run to cram for the PHD defense tomorrow. The title of my thesis is: “how do the percentages of house change with the relationship between drinking more than 2 liters of vodka per day and how this is accelerated or decelerated by adding the variable of smoking in bed; 1500 case studies reviewed with subjects with last names ending in ski and ska, control group consists of 100 Mormon families in Salt Lake City Utah’

    Full presentation (audio/video) will be made at blog meet on November 20th in Warsaw.

  7. bob says:

    By the way:

    Is available for an enterprising soul.

  8. island1 says:

    I thought you were supposed to touch their buttons, not your own—that’s too easy.

  9. island1 says:

    Will there be slides :)

  10. bob says:

    Slides are passe – we’re talking full video, flash and all in 3D – bring your 3D glasses! (after a few beers however there may not be a need for the glasses)

  11. Steve says:

    I’ve never heard of the chimney sweep scam, but there used to be this guy who said he was a priest, but yet had half the block pretending they weren’t at home.

  12. Regina F. says:

    Yeah, you’re supposed to touch your own button and hold it as long as you meet a person who wears glasses… otherwise the chimney sweep won’t bring you any luck. It’s so logical, isn’t it? ;)

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