Boo

Les gens qui ne rient jamais ne sont pas des gens sérieux

Be who you are and say what you mean, those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Practical Polish

So there I was, all beaming and happy after my end of course Polish test which I came out of with 67.5 out of 70 (I thank you, I thank you). The rain was trickling down my back in that way reminiscent of English winters but I didn't care because I had a free afternoon to feed soup to poor sick Marek and think about what presents I should be out buying.

I remembered the parcel that was waiting to be posted to my family in the UK and decided I'd just pop into the post office and put my Polish to practical use, before returning home and hiding from the cold damp weather for the rest of the day. After all, I can manage 'I'd like to send this parcel to England: Priority please' in Polish. Easy.

When, oh when, will I learn?

Yes, I can manage that in Polish, what I can't manage is keeping the frustration at bay while I stand in a queue for 45 minutes watching the people behind the counter carry out their amazing magical trick of managing to be very very busy without actually serving anyone in an efficient manner.

The next thing I can't manage, once my number comes around, is having a crowd of people jostling behind me, because they have the next five numbers and wish to guard their place at all costs.

This all paled into insignificance however when the scowling lady behind the counter looked at me and in a withering tone asked if I had the form. Er, the form? I want to send a parcel. Priority. That's all, no form. She tutted and sighed and handed me the form.

I tried not to panic at all the words that had not formed part of my Polish course so far and figured out the main points. I handed it back, ignoring the muttering from the crowd gathered behind who had all thrust bits of paper through the small opening, trying to attract the scowling woman's attention.

She looked at me over her glasses, I gulped. She started talking very fast and pointing at one of the boxes, stabbing it with her finger and saying something I interpreted as 'look you ignorant girl, this is not filled in the way it should be. Are you totally stupid? This box clearly asks for your coffin preference for when you collapse sobbing in a heap and the frustrated crowd behind you trample you to death. Don't you get it?'

I took a deep breath, asked her to repeat and tried to fathom what the hell her problem was. Turns out that I'd filled in a box that wasn't necessary. Apparently, if you specify a value for the contents of the package, they have to verify the contents and repackage it in special paper and tie it up with string in exactly the right way and they have to check your father is in a respectable profession, and things just get a bit complicated. So once we'd agreed that we'd draw a line through that and just send the package PRIORITY as I'd asked and keep things simple turns out there was no problem. Of course, I had to call Marek to establish this.

Yes, I called Marek. Yes, I made the scary woman speak to him. Yes, she hated me even more after the call.

This was in no way an atypical visit to the Polish post office.

Let's face it, until I have got 67.5/70 in a test that covers sentences along the lines of 'What the hell is your problem you ignorant witch?' or 'Don't scowl at me just because you have such a crappy job, ever heard of customer service?' my Polish is only going to be useful in certain situations, when talking to reasonable people. How practical is that?

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7 Comments:

Blogger Aaron Fowles said...

quote:"my Polish is only going to be useful in certain situations, when talking to reasonable people. How practical is that?"

Try Chicago.

9:07 am  
Anonymous Keji said...

poor u! We already talked about this, but I don't think anything u told me quite communicated ur predicament quite like...
"saying something I interpreted as 'look you ignorant girl, this is not filled in the way it should be. Are you totally stupid? This box clearly asks for your coffin preference for when you collapse sobbing in a heap and the frustrated crowd behind you trample you to death. Don't you get it?'"

i know it wasn't a funny experience....but that is a pure comedic line.....hehehehehehe!

2:25 pm  
Anonymous Kinuk said...

Ahh, the Polish Post Office strikes again! I've blogged about them a few times already, but never seem to run out of material.

By the way, congratulations on your excellent score! I've seen those test and they aren't easy. Wowsers! Good on you.

6:13 pm  
Anonymous steve said...

wow, that is at the same time the most tragic and hilarious story i've hear in a while. its amazing just how similar the post office is all ove the world. the joys of bureaucracy. on a side note, i have often felt that the typical foreign language class, while high on explaining how to describe the colour of your clothes or lenght o your hair, really fall short of those really useful expressions, such as 'What the hell is your problem you ignorant witch?' or 'Don't scowl at me just because you have such a crappy job, ever heard of customer service?'.
and no she has never hear of customer service she works at a post office, not knowing about customer service is a job requirement

3:02 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cool blog! I'm going to Poland next year, so its been informative reading about your experiences.

I have a blog of my own, and do plan to start some serious updating once my exams finish in a few days.

http://www.livejournal.com/users/mevam/

7:32 am  
Blogger Becca said...

anon, you should check out p3 if you want to know about Poland... a few expats have got together and produced an eclectic mix of posts... the link is http://polishstyle.blogspot.com/ (someone please tell me how to put links in these comment boxes!)

8:00 pm  
Blogger Gustav said...

I've been here for nearly five years and I still don't know enough to worthily curse at those she-slugs in the post office.

11:30 pm  

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