Calling All Cars!

For those that have travelled on Polish roads, there are many things to watch out for, not least the potentially erratic driving skills of Polish drivers and road quality levels. However, another point which catches the eye is how many cars tend to have multiple aerials (or antennae) protruding from various parts of the vehicles. Naturally, most of the aerials are the small 40-50 centimetre kind, ubiquitous in cars for picking up commercial radio stations.

However, quite often you can find a car with another aerial on it, usually quite long (maybe even up to a metre in length). This second antenna will usually be found attached over the boot (trunk) of the car, with the power cable connecting back into the boot. This is used to provide a CB radio system for drivers navigating their way across Poland. Now, those who travel about mostly in Polish cities only might not see these aerials on cars too often (apart from taxis of course), but once you move to the expressways, highways and (occasional) motorways, they are more common.

In other countries, CB radios would be associated more with truck drivers, and long-haul truckers especially. Films such as Smokey and the Bandit in particular helped to foster the image of the CB radio user being on the wild side and helping to win against ‘The Man’. This image was also popularised by the usage of the CB radio Ten Codes which came more into day-to-day usage. Terms such as “What’s your 20?”, meaning ‘Where are you located?’ transitioned from CB usage into daily life, for a while at least.

This has also then been adapted into Polish ways. Many drivers who use the CB radios will use them to find out from other drivers if there might be any roadworks in the area to be aware of, some traffic build-up, or perhaps to warn others of police checkpoints or speed checks to be aware of. While the points around traffic and roadworks may be more limited nowadays due to improvements in GPS data, availability and device usage, many drivers will still use CBs to give shout outs to fellow drivers to give warning of police car locations, confirming the attitude of ‘sticking it to the Man’.

An interesting note around how Polish drivers use CBs though, is highlighted by the below examples:

Weekday driving

Driver 1: “Uwaga! Police doing speed checks on the A25 between Bydgoszcz and Morzewiec! F***ers almost caught me, but I got down to 72 (km/h) before I passed them.”

Driver 2: “Lucky s***! I got collared last week. Had to pay 300zl and got 10 points. Ba***rds are just jealous of my BMW.”

Driver 3: “Horrible roadworks on the A80 near Toruń. I nearly lost a wheel in a hole the size of a f***ing elephant!”


Sunday driving

Driver 1: “Would any of the esteemed gentlemen on this broadcast channel know of a restaurant of fine repute for Sunday lunch?”

Driver 2: “There’s a marvellous Italian establishment on the road from Poznań to Wroclaw. Kind sir should be warned of potential delays due to the variable road conditions though.”

Driver 3: “Oh that should be no problem. I’m just taking a leisurely drive on a Sunday afternoon.”

The theory behind the above exchanges is that during the week-time, the majority of such drivers using CBs tend to be long-term, long distance drivers, sitting alone in their cars traversing the highways and byways of Poland, aiming to get where they want to be as quick as possible, regardless of what is in the way. On Sundays however, it tends to be families out for a Sunday drive or looking for Sunday lunch, and language tend to be self-moderated in a way not required during the week.

Finally, ham radio does also have a following in Poland, with the Polish Amateur Radio Union (Polskie Zwiazek Krótkofolawców) having been in place since about 1922. However, as a hobby and a communication form it is probably dying out. It had suffered difficulty in the past with various governments cracking down on who could own radio receivers and transmitters. It is also being squeezed by modern technology with the internet replacing it as a communication method, which car-based CB radios are required less due to GPS devices, either in hand-held device format or in mobile phones. However, for regular Polish drivers, it still remains a way to build a type of camaraderie and source of information while driving.


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10 thoughts on “Calling All Cars!

  1. I think CB is also good for finding tirowki… But CB is now the old-school way of finding some roadside action as AutoMapa has a category, like “Restuarants”, “Petrol Stations”, etc …but for tirowki. It’s called “Tirowki”. Not very subtle but I suppose it’s one of those things that makes AutoMapa a popular product for drivers in Poland… and another one of those things that makes driving in Poland so unique. :P

  2. Kohlrabi says:

    Other somewhat two-edged names for “tirówki”, I’ll leave translating it into English as an exercise:

    – strażniczki lasu
    – ssaki leśne
    – grzybiarki

  3. Damien Moran says:

    Are they
    – park ranger
    – forest mammal
    – mushroom picker

    Interesting post. A car crazy ex-student told me about this radio system last year, prior to that I had no idea of their existence cause I’m more the walking, running, cycling, public transport kind. He swore by it and said he used very often.

  4. Wiktor says:

    The terms “park ranger”, “forest mammal” and “mushroom picker” do not sufficiently convey the ambiguity contained in “strażniczka lasu”, “ssak leśny” and “grzybiarka”; the latter two being heavily suggestive.

  5. Damien Moran says:

    Ok, so all 3 are basically a highway hooker? I get that they are all sexual, but is there any difference between them?

  6. Polish CB slang is hilarious. In addition to “tirówki” and the many suggestive synonyms for them, there are also creative names for cops, speed traps, other cars, and so on. I’m curious if anyone has done an academic study on CB slang, it would be fascinating.

    Another point to be considered is what happens when a female voice is heard on the CB, especially on weekdays. If you want to hear the most lewd, suggestive and inappropriate come-ons outside of Szewska Street, try being a woman on a CB.

  7. Kohlrabi says:

    No, they all mean the same.

  8. Sylwia says:

    Great topic!

    Two of my friends use CB radio which gave me some limited experience. Both chiefly for long distance driving.

    The last time I drove to Germany there was a prostitute who used CB to advertise her services, and it seemed it was the usual thing to do.

    I also experienced this week-day/weekend difference. It was on a week-day. A man said he was with his family, and the CB users became all politeness! Very funny!

  9. tee says:

    Unfortunately, CB is not for women.

    I’ve had a CB radio installed in my car, because my family was curious about it and my sister (another long-distance driver) didn’t want one in her car. I have to say I hardly use it and I’d only dare to speak up if I had a mood for a quarrel with fellow male drivers about how sexist, rude and unhelpful most of them seems to be. The only thing they seem to be interested when they hear the female voice is turning CB’s into a free, completely anonymous phone sex line, which is infuriating.

  10. Halina says:

    I’m Polish living in USA and I just live Polandian !! James is doing a great job.

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