Wednesday, 1 August 2007


My boss is away this week, and we are expecting an important IT delivery. I have been tracking it online: an addictive pastime in the absence of an office television. The equipment was dispatched from Ireland last Tuesday. On Friday it landed in the Netherlands.
I suggested that maybe it was hitch-hiking its way east. The response was lukewarm.

And then on Monday, a miracle occurred: the telephone rang.
me - Słucham?
- [something Polish... DHL... komputerowego... something else Polish]
me - Czy pani mowi po angielsku?
- uuhhh nie za bardzo uhhh moment [asks colleague in Polish how to say 'your parcel will be delivered tomorrow morning' in English]

I have reached a frustrating point in my Polish-learning endeavours. Generally when the person on the other end of the phone knows only a little English, they know the same few words that I know in Polish, so we just mirror each other without widening our common vocabulary in any way. My most recent solution is just to bluff my way through the conversation- trying to insert 'tak, dobrze' in the right places- and to figure it all out by process of elimination afterwards. [This method has been thoroughly tested and is not recommended for consecutive interpreting exams.]
The next day, the phone rang again, the delivery was announced, and I hurried outside, trying to look businesslike and professional in a manner appropriate to someone receiving an important IT delivery. As a student in London I temped behind a lot of reception desks, and signed for any number of parcels without the faintest clue who they were for or what they contained, so this should have been an easy task.

I had reckoned without Polish business bureaucracy.

- Pieczątka?
This sounded near enough to the word for 'mushrooms' to be momentarily very confusing. I wondered if I was about to sign for a large prosciutto i funghi.
But no. He was referring to the company stamp: an indispensable piece of equipment which identifies any firm, and which is used on a constant basis to Make Things Look Official.
- sure, two seconds
I ran inside to get the stamp from my boss's desk. It wasn't there. I checked the drawers. No stamp. Similar searches of his in-tray, the fridge, the coffee jar and the cupboard under the sink also proved fruitless.
I ran back outside, slightly flustered.
- Nie ma. [For a reminder of the meaning of 'Nie ma', please see your local corner shop, post office or pharmacy]
- Dokument?
I ran back inside again, realising as I did that my passport and driving licence were both safely tucked away in my underwear drawer at home. I found an official-looking letter with the company address on it, but this was no good.

The man from DHL sighed, loaded the delivery back into the lorry and drove away.

I am starting to become concerned about the Bad Obwarzanki Lady. Her kiosk was closed today. I hope that things are as they should be. Perhaps the cosmic runes on the till told her to take the day off and howl at the moon somewhere.

And finally: Pani Stasia is serving blueberry pierogi at the moment. Quick, go, before she runs out.

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