Those who have kept up with Polandian for a while have surely read several rants on various things that make the hackles of English and American people living in Poland rise. Given that over a month has gone by since my last post went off here and that I have had an awful week abounding in situations in which I nearly hit the roof, it is the high time I hit you with a list of ten things that repeatedly hack me off.
1. Unreliability – probably the most infuriating trait Poles have. I have written a comprehensive post about it, so this time I’ll just link to it, everything is laid out there.
2. Keeping hands in a pocket while talking with somebody or speaking to audience. I do not know whether that habit can be easily eradicated, but it surely should be. Dress code flops can be forgiven, but it is much harder to connive at lack of respect, so overtly shown be keeping hands in a pocket. Maybe I am not well-versed in body language, but I tend to tag people with this affliction “snotty”. Do they really try to signal they are more important, or do they not realise they manifest their rudeness by hiding their palms from other people’s eyes?
3. Lack of respect for other people’s time? During an in-company training on holding meetings, coaches have taught me it is crucial within a company and in private life. Punctuality is vital then. Coming late for a meeting means you do not care about other people’s time, which is these days quite often a scarce commodity. The more official the meeting is and the more people attend, the bigger your sin is when you turn up late. Those who run a meeting should peek at their watches as well. Much more infuriating is when an event lasts longer than it should. When a meeting is supposed to be held in alloted time, for instance it should end by 3 p.m., you must not overrun it. Some participants surely have some other plans for time after 3 p.m. and you should bear it in mind. And if you did not get to the point and the meeting has been wearing on for too long, sorry mate, you did not bring it off and need to learn the lesson.
4. Idleness / laziness – another collective disease in Poland. No matter how you call it, there is always a group of people who try to outfox other ones, try to shirk work, pretend they do something, are all mouth to do something and generally when the results of their work are measured, it turns out there is much smoke, but little fire. Actually the “couldn’t care less” approach makes life easier, but usually for a person who practises it, but can be a huge nuisance for people around who sometimes break their backs and the idlers benefit from “sucker’s” efforts.
5. SUV drivers. Even after heavy snowfalls I still have no idea why people need those huge 4WD pricey vehicles to drive around town. After many years of investigations I still cannot make out whether buying big cars has anything to do with inferiority complex, if it is a way to boost ego of people who came to Warsaw from the countryside and purchased SUVs to swank and finally if there is a significant negative correlation between size of the car and size of a certain part of its male owner’s body. Probably the rising popularity of SUVs among women can disprove my theory.
It is not that I dislike them by the very dint of size and market value of their cars. They wind me up for one simple reason – they look down on other roads users and people around in general. They think if their car is bigger they can cut in on other cars, or can occupy two parking spaces. In Warsaw I have observed a quaint regularity – the more expensive a car is, the worse it is parked. Shiny BMWs, Audis and other luxurious cars tend to be parked aslant, occupy two spaces, are parked on lawns or where parking is forbidden. Let’s face it – quite often drivers of those cars are not enough skilled to sit behind a wheel of a sizeable vehicle. And this week I have been splashed with a slush three times by drivers of SUVs. Drivers of other vehicles can slow down when they pass a poor pedestrian by, but SUV drivers do not care.
6. Grannies… I know I should pre-empt you reproaching me over lack of respect for elederly people. I do understand they do things slowly and I will not bemoan their senility, because one day I will reach the same age, but the case is thoughtlessness. On Tuesday I visited a post office in Warsaw to buy post stamps and send Christmas cards. I queued up obediently and watched an amazing scene. An around 80-year-old woman asked for some Christmas cards, she did not know how many she needed, she could not pick any that could meet her expectations, she grumbled about prices, sizes, pictures, colours, etc. This could all have been forgiven even despite the fact the queue was getting longer and a worker behind the counter was getting impatient. She fianlly settled on eight cards and instead of letting a next person in a queue come up to the counter she took out a pen and began writing wishes, while still occupying the counter. The post worker gently asked her to move away because other people were waiting their turn, just to find herself accused by the granny of “belligerence” and “small-mindedness”. Fortunately, people waiting in a queue stood up for the besieged employee. Another quite frequent occurence when older people could use their nuts is getting off a bus. Usually they are lucky enough to be given a seat and know exactly on which stop they should alight the vehicle. Unfortunately, they wait until the bus stops and then stand up and elbow their way towards the nearest door. Usually other passengers are thumped with their belongings, are trampled, sometimes they fall over and eventually the granny fails to make it to the door before it is closed. Then everyone around, including inconsiderate passengers and the brash bus driver is to blame, in a word everyone except them. Outside public transport vehicles it is not much better. Recently they have picked up a habit of walking in the middle of a pavement. I am aware they cannot walk as fast as I do, but they can occupy only the half of a pavement on the side of it, not in the middle, to let other people, who are in hurry, overtake them. It does not take sleight, it takes to think…
7. Relativism & hypocrisy. Almost every Polish driver knows another driver who cuts in on them is a rude clot, but if they cut in on someone else it’s because they are in a hurry. When your colleague prints his private stuff on a company printer he simply steals paper and toner paid by your company; when you do it, it is because you have a profound reason (such as running out of ink in a cartridge at home, or saving on ink and paper). When your neighbour wheels and deals not to pay taxes, this is called tax evasion, when you do the same it is tax avoidance.
8. Ignorance, ubiquituos ignorance. But it does not prevent anyone from holding their head up high. A general old truth is that every Pole is an expert in every field. They are all best traffic engineers, economists, doctors, always well-read and well-travelled. This plague is particularly pernicious when it affects journalists. I am still waiting for a week when I do not find a single arcticle in a newspaper or in the Internet without a single factual error. Polish journalists are more and more often cutting corners when doing their work, they do not substantiate facts and hope nobody twigs. Fortunately enough, their “slip-ups” do not pass unnoticed and they have to correct their errors.
9. Cheating on exams. I took an exam on Wednesday. I had not had any for some half a year and surely in that joyful time I forgot how it feels. The hell begins some twenty minutes before students get into the room. Some students gather and begin to moan that they have not learnt at all and are totally unprepared. Then of course they get best grades. Brushing aside the “I’m unprepared” bleating, things get much worse when sheets with questions are handed out. Every (in)decent student tries then to look over someone else’s shoulder to check someone else’s answers. This is not yet the worst, the worst is when I cannot concentrate on the exams because some jerk jostles me and asks for a correct answer. It particularly hacks me off when they clamour for help because they work and consequently could not attend classes and did not have time to study for the exam. It was their choice to pursue career and earn money, I also combine studies with work, but it is not a reason why someone else should pass exams instead of me. When will Polish students finally realise this is sponging on people who work hard and this is theft, intellectual theft?
10. Grumbling, but not lifting a finger to improve anything. Back in the joyful times of middle school I first heard the phrase “Change the world, by changing yourself”. It would be quite practical to start revamping the workings of the world around from improving workings of small things. All my neighbours complain my street should be clear of snow. Indeed it should, but before a tractor with a snowplough sent by local authorities arrives, every healthy man should take a shovel and remove snow from a short section of road in front of his house. Thus after an hour the whole street would be clear of snow and all men, instead of sitting and staring at the box would have physical exercise. I recently cleared twenty metres of my street of snow and an hour later my neighbour scattered the snow from his drive there. I did not shatter my shovel on his head just because I want to stay out of trouble…
Cool! What a relief to take it all off my chest. Is anyone around who has not been insulted yet?