Friday, January 17, 2014

Small learnings

The Poles were standing at the front of the line when God handed out consonants, and when The Almighty looked away they grabbed some extra "z"s and "c"s.

Susan is teaching her last two classes this afternoon (she will grade the final exam at home and send the grades by email). Last night's snow turned to freezing rain today so I gave up my ambition to take a long walk and instead stayed in the immediate neighborhood of Muranow. This was the Jewish Ghetto, which is likely why the Nazis used the psychology building as headquarters. Directly across the street is a memorial to the 300,000 Jews who were loaded on trains and sent to the camps after the  Ghetto Uprising. Movingly, it appears to be among the first places to be cleared after a snow.  There is an impressive new Jewish museum nearby, but the major exhibits have not yet been installed.  Next time we come to Warsaw we will need to go.

The neighborhood is being aggressively developed.  Our apartment looks out on a construction site where I cannot quite figure out what they are doing, but given how short winter days are here the crews start working at first light.  Most newer buildings are designed with porticos, a nice thing in freezing rain.

I picked up a few grocery items then went to Carrefour, essentially a Polish version of Wal-Mart, to look for small gifts for the grandchildren. I have reached the tentative conclusion that Polish cashiers are disproportionately made up up of grouchy older women.  Here are some things you will not find in guidebooks:
   1.  They do not like to make change.  The total is announced in rapid Polish and when you give them, say, a twenty zloty note for your 13.45 bill, they wait for you to fish out the 3.45. Since I do not understand what they are asking for I either pull out all my change and try to look confused but pleasant or make writing gestures.  The ladies do not find either especially charming.
   2.  If you use the express line at Carrefour, you are not entitled to a plastic bag. Since bags are freely dispensed in the other lines, this is not intuitive to an American.  I made the horrible mistake of  reaching for a bag from the next counter and received a severe scolding.  I am grateful she did not call security.
   3.  Speaking of which, the supermarket in our apartment building always has a security guard standing just beyond the registers.  We have no idea why he is there and have never seen him do anything but look stern.  It is a practice we might consider to reduce unemployment.

Tonight we will have dinner with our friend, Kasia, and tomorrow we have the full day to play or explore before departing Sunday. Only two more nights in/on this miserable bed, which I have determined is - or once was - a futon.


Don Niederfrank said...

Thanks for these sights and insights, John.

Some day someone will offer Warsaw what we've come to know as 'customer service,' and a social revolution will have begun.

I would offer traveling mercies for your trip home, but I'm thinking you just need...
Good luck!

Colin said...

Carrefour is French, which might help explain the attitude ...