Monday, 5 May 2008

Social Responsibility

Scene 1

I sat on the OrlyBus staring out of the window and tuning in to the chat of two late middle-aged Italian guys sitting behind me.
- Do we get off here or there? Is this West? No... Sud?

I think Orly Sud is the terminal that all the budget airlines fly from. As I listened to them deliberating whether or not to get off the bus, I became more and more worried for these two apparently gentle guys (probably identifying them with the father of a previous boyfriend who was largely content with life so long as there was a sofa to lie on and Fiorentina stayed in Serie A). Eventually I could bear it no more and I turned round:
- This stop is Orly West; I said
- Oh... but we don't have tickets. We did it all on the internet. Maybe it's this terminal.
- Me too!; I said, slightly more concerned; 'I got an e-ticket too... where are you...'

At that point the bus stopped at Orly West.

- Che ne so?! Dai... scendiamo a vedere...

And they made for the door before I could save them.

Scene 2

The flight was a little delayed, and announcements were made - of course - in French followed by English. I could see the younger members of the Polish families waiting around the boarding gate straining to decipher the heavy French accent weighing down the English announcements so they could interpret to their parents.
I began to feel the worry mounting up inside me again. Did they really understand? Was I the only one with all the information? Should I jump in with my francuski-polski translation?

And here's the thing. Dear Transavia France and Aerogare Orly Sud. Would it really be so hard to learn the names of your flight destinations in each of the languages in which you are planning to announce them?*
I mean, Krakow and Warsaw are really not so hard to remember. It could be worse: Moldova versus Moldavia or Moldovia, for example. And do we say 'Ukraine' or The Ukraine (cos I heard the second one would be received very poorly indeed by actual Ukrainians)? Oh yes and the perennial Bielorussia question... Just what is the name in English now? Can anybody tell me what language they speak there? Is is Belorus, Belorussian, Byelorusian? What would John Humphreys say?

Back to Orly Sud and the departure gates. Here's an example:
- Ladeez zand dzentlemen we are pleez to annonce ze departure offlight nombere XXX to ... uhh... Varsovy...

Eventually the confusion was just too much and they found someone to make the announcements in Polish.

[Don't even get me started on the security woman who indicated the seams of my skirt and then said 'neetch', pointedly, several times until I realised that she was trying to check, in Polish, that I had nothing ('nic') in my pockets. Seeing my state of confusion she then turned to her colleague and laughed about how stupid these Poles are]

Finally we were all lined up and moving, albeit slowly, towards the boarding gate.

I was a little nervous, but I prepared my little speech. I had something to say to the Transavia employee at the gate.

I took a deep breath as I handed over my passport:

- Excuse me but the English for Cracovie is Krakow not 'Cracovia' and it's important to know because there are people who only speak English and they'll miss their flights and there we go I just thought you should know these things...

- yes Madame. Don't worry Madame. Yes. Of course.

She spoke over me, nodding her head. Clearly nothing had sunk in.

It didn't matter. That niggling feeling of worry was assuaged. Placated, my conscience and I stepped onto the plane with a big grin of embarrassment. Someone had had to butt in, and it had been me.

I don't know. One random act of tourist rescue and suddenly you think you're Superwoman.

Should I have mentioned that Cracovia is a football team? Or should I leave Transavia to deal with the potential hordes of angry Wisła fans...

ps: talking of social responsibility, I thought nanny-state adverts only existed in Scotland, but no: TVP1 just played an ad urging you to avoid heart disease by not getting angry.
Does that mean there'll be a rehaul of the tax system and drobne for all and sundry??

*And seriously, how about recording a safety announcement in Polish if you're flying to Polish destinations? Surely there's some regulation that states that everyone on the plane should understand what to do in an emergency?!


peixote said...

Excellent. Glad to see someone still has a heart in this day and age.

Anonymous said...

Misrepresentation! (He also needs meals to appear magically on the table.)

Anonymous said...

Too bad Pinolona was not in Canada when they killed the Polish traveller with a taser...

pinolona said...

Yeah I heard about that. It's incredible. And then there were the Italians who got shot by US soldiers in Iraq.
More funding for trainee interpreters, guys! Come on, cough up! It could save lives!

peixote: heart? didn't you quote hannibal lecter earlier? would that go with a chianti riserva or classico?

Fed: and maybe Harry Belafonte on the car stereo and handy foreign girls to fetch iced water? :) La vita è bella...

peixote said...

That was liver actually, the part that goes down well with chianti. I believe H.Lecter respected kindness to your fellow man. While we are on the subject I wonder how the expression "eat your heart out" originated.

pinolona said...

I think 'eat your heart out' is biblical. It refers to your heart being eaten away with grief or something. I think.

ps my liver is already nicely marinated and needs no additional Chianti!