Life in Poland

Calamity Chris




An accident waiting to happen.

That’s me.

image Hearing an “ow” from the other room or seeing a fresh bruise on my arm, Misiu always asks, “Did the wall jump out at you again?”

“No,” I answer indignantly, “The wall did not jump out at me. It was the door.”

His parting words to me each day are not the generic “Have a good day” or even “I love you”, but “Don’t hurt yourself”.(Nie zrób sobie krzywdy”)

He knows me well.

I am a danger not only to myself, but also to the things around me. I just don’t know my own strength. I have a special acuity for breaking things especially handles, knobs, buttons and levers.

It all started in the bathroom. Unfortunately, not my own bathroom.image It started with the bathroom at my parents-in-law’s.

First, we must know 2 things. Toilets in America and toilets in Poland have a slightly different flushing mechanism. The amount of force needed to engage the flush is also slightly different. You may never have thought about it, but your body carries with it the memory of this (toilet-flushing, door-closing, etc.) force. For that reason, you tap on your computer keyboard and not pound. You close the fridge door lightly and not slam. You flush with the force necessary as found in your tactile memory to make the water come down, but not enough to rip the toilet from the wall.

So, I always flushed with just the right amount of force until the day I exited my parents-in-law’s bathroom, eyes looking guiltily at the floor, clutching the broken flusher in my hand. My father-in-law tried to fix it, several times in fact, but somehow I managed to break it again-the action in my hand always overriding the order from my brain, don’t break the toilet, don’t break the toilet, don’t break the toilet. In the end, they had to buy a new toilet…with a different flushing mechanism which remains to this day intact despite my many visits there.

image The door handle to their bathroom has not been so lucky. First in my defense, in the US we mostly have door knobs and not handles. These handles have always caused me problems. Often I cannot get a door to close properly, and I usually let it open, except for the bathroom…at my parents-in-law’s. That’s a place I need to close the door. And with my closing, so went the door handle not once but twice, unto countless times. Fortunately, the door can be closed by grasping the lock lever (which I will never use for its intended purpose as I would surely become imprisoned in there) and pulling tightly.

Sigh, if only my accidents were limited to home. I recently removed the door handle from the bathroom at my gynecologist’s office to which he swore that it had been broken earlier that day and he hadn’t had time to fix it yet. Yeah right.

Next, I broke off the door handle to my friend’s bedroom. She knows me and knows what I can do, so she just took it with a smile when I handed her the handle and said my embarrassed sorry.image

The most embarrassing of my accidents (so far) had to be in a bank. Well, not in the bank but in the offices of the holding company that owned the bank. Of course, the office was all very elegant, at that time located in a tastefully renovated brownstone, complete with a lot of sexy glass  doors….with door handles. It’s funny how they always seem to come in pairs, doors and their handles.

Anyhow, I finished my lesson on the top floor and decided not to take the elevator down but to walk instead. I didn’t want to be lazy, and I also have problems with elevators. As I pulled on the door handle of the sexy, glass, floor-to-ceiling doors, a strange but familiar thing happened. The door stayed put, and the handle came with me. I knelt down and tried to put it back on giving quick glances behind me to check if anyone had seen me through all those damn glass doors. I tried and tried to put it back on, but jeez I’m not MacGyver. I had no choice, but to turn myself in.

imageI descended the staircase running through some possible  explanations in my head. As I got to the bottom of the staircase, I was met by the security guard. I sheepishly showed him the handle in my hand. He asked me, “Co się stało?” as if I were his daughter showing him my empty ice cream cone with the ice cream melting at my feet on the sidewalk. I handed him the handle and said, “Nie znam swojej siły”, and then I escaped!

Know your own strength!

PS  Door in Polish is plural. Doors are…Drzwi są even when you are talking about one door. My husband kept me quiet one whole evening by asking me how to say 10 doors in Polish. Dziesięć drzwi. Dzisięcioro drzwi. How about Dziesięć par drzwi….but wouldn’t that mean 20? Oh cholera, who cares?!?

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  • Reply
    May 21, 2010 at 6:24 pm

    Unique. Really unimaginable 😀 in the middle of the post I couldn't stop myself from laughing :)However, when I was in England, two years ago, and was living in a host family, I broke the blinds. I was closing them, using the little rope, and when I pulled it the whole blinds just fell on me. Lucky (yeah) me, they haven't damage the window. I have also spilt red wine on the white comforter and broke the scale (not when I stood on it, which also would be probable, but I dropped my hair conditioner on it)… So, while I'm laughing because your \”handle-problem\” I understand it very well 😉

  • Reply
    May 22, 2010 at 6:55 am

    Tell me about it… Just yesterday I was trying to burn down my flat… Have this induction hotplate and I'm pretty much blind. So I won't see that I turned on not the correct plate, which I would notice if I'd had normal polish gas cooker 🙂 And as I smelt something burning and definitely not smelling like boiling rice, it occured it was the plate where the cable to microwave was lying… Good I've noticed it early enough… And yep, cable to microwave is dead, wonder if the rest of it is alright!And it's not even my own flat!

  • Reply
    Titania yng Nghymru
    May 22, 2010 at 8:58 am

    Awwww, Chris, bless you! 🙂 you will get used to it! ;P you will. yeah, its funny when u move to another country with a different culture and u experience not only a different way of living, thinking, rules, stereotypes but also tiny, little differences in functioning in everyday life like those handles working a different way from the door knobs (i hate door knobs btw i find them unconvenient 😛 i prefer the handles he he he! here in the uk we have got a mixture of them! thx god!) it must have looked very funny when you broke the door handle at those bank premises and escaped LOL i bet the face of that guard must have looked hillarious!!!\”nie znam swojej siły!\” sorry but that sound so funny! ha ha ha! im laughing my head off now! power to the american ppl!!! 😛 LOLyeah, \”drzwi\” is plural in pl by default and so is \”plecy\” = the back, i mean the body part 🙂 when i speak eng i always have to make sure i use the proper eng verbs with them like is/was/has got instead of are/were/have got… and i feel so much tempted to do so. on the other hand, how can you, (americans/britsh) think of \”hair\” as a single/uncountable object?!! 😛 \”włosy\” = (hair) in pl is also a form in plural when we refer to somebody's hair but u can also say \”włos\” = a hair if u mean a single one in a particular context. my common mistake is to use \”they\” instead of \”it when i refer to hair in eng! it's so much beyond my will that i keep making that mistake after many years of studying english!!! argh!

  • Reply
    May 22, 2010 at 11:42 am

    My husband's bigest problem in Poland was bathrooms ligth switch outside of the bathrooms:))))))))And if you think about it doesn't make any sense. I remember being a child when somebody was always turning lights off on someone else who was using a bathroom. It was a constant joke. Quite stupid, but you can get use to it, as everything;)

  • Reply
    May 22, 2010 at 1:26 pm

    Stardust, I have this problem in Norway! I mean opposite to yours husband. Here all the light switches are INSIDE the bathroom. Can't adjust, keep just trying to turn it on outside and getting very annoyed when I can't find it!

  • Reply
    May 22, 2010 at 5:49 pm

    ucieczka and Rinonka – So, I guess I'm not the only one 🙂 It's nice to have some clumsy company.Titania – I make the same mistakes in Polish with hair and back. I say włosy jest (hairs is) which is really bad 'cause I know that włosy is the plural form, but habit is stronger. I also forget to use Pan/Pani in situations when it would be a good idea, like for ex when the police stop you ;)Stardust and Rinonka – Don't get me started on the bathroom light switch…that's just crazeeee!

  • Reply
    May 22, 2010 at 5:57 pm

    Rinonka–> The light switch outside makes no sense, while you using the bathroom anyone who passes by can turn the lights off and you are left with your pants down and no light. Is plain stupid:)) In US all the switches are inside rooms, that's why my husband had a problem to find them.

  • Reply
    May 23, 2010 at 8:16 pm

    I know my strenght and I've never broken anything but the door handles keep jumping at me and grabbing my sleeves. ;-/

  • Reply
    May 24, 2010 at 10:55 am

    nielot – I am laughing right now. Let's say I'm laughing with you and not at you because I have the same problem. It's hard to act cool when you are talking to somebody and as you cross over the threshold your sleeve gets caught on the door handle stopping you cold 🙂

  • Reply
    May 24, 2010 at 10:18 pm

    Drzwi! lol, I always have problems with dwie and dwa, I never know which one to use in situations. xD

  • Reply
    May 25, 2010 at 10:42 am

    \”Drzwi\” is quite like \”dzieci\” : \”dwoje drzwi\”, \”dwoje dzieci\”, \”dziesięcioro drzwi\” etc.I do not usually break things, but here in France almost every drzwi has a special button which you have to press if you want to go out. I still haven't got used to it and every time I try to go out just like this, without pressing the button. and I am very surprised that I can't 😉

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