I had the opportunity to go to my 20th high school class reunion. That’s right. I’ve been out of high school twenty years and thank goodness for that.
Quite a few of my friends in Poland wanted to know if the reunion was like in American movies. I have to say yes and no. I wasn’t nervous or anything like in the movies. There wasn’t anyone I was dying to see or anyone I wanted to prove something to like in the movies. I was most worried that I wouldn’t remember somebody’s name (it happened) or somebody at all (it happened too – I was an exceptionally unobservant teenager).
Misiu was happy to go with me. He was also happy about the $2.50 bottled beer. His one comment looking around the room was, “Jeezus. That’s what 38 can look like”. In the case of some of my classmates, 38 can look pretty darn good and in the case of some others….well, better not mention it.
We circulated around the room and basically had the same conversation with 75 different people (and they had the same with us).
Quite a few of my classmates already knew that I live in Poland (thanks Facebook) so the next obvious question was “What’s it like there?” which is exactly what I would have asked in the same situation.
One of my former classmates, not wanting to admit he had no idea where Poland was asked, “Refresh my memory. Where is Poland again?” I really do not mind this kind of question. I don’t get all in an uproar that somebody doesn’t know where Poland is…but in this case I was surprised because the question-asker is in the military, in the air force I think he said, and is trying to get transferred to the base in Germany. Don’t they have classes in military history? I told him that if he gets transferred to Germany Poland will be his closest neighbor to the East.
The stereotype says that Americans are uninformed and/or uninterested in the world around them. I found that many people were uninformed but given the opportunity to ask, were very interested in Poland. It was I who had difficulty in answering the question. What is it like in Poland? Well, I had 75 tries to fine-tune my reply.
I started with some lame comment like – “The old things are really old and the new things are brand new. And uhh, we have Mcdonald’s.” How did I win awards for public speaking? Seriously.
I basically said that Poland is a normal country. We drive on the right. We have 4 seasons. The people are nice, etc. and then I mentioned that we have socialized health care.
Please join me at my HS Class of 1992 20th Reunion.
Chris (totally cool girl from high school who for some reason lives in Poland and is married to some hot Polish guy who thinks Heineken for 2 bucks 50 cents per bottle is cheap)
Classmates (from various walks of life, all cool, most educated, ok one missing 4 front teeth on the top and 2 on the bottom but the rest pretty normal American folks)
Chris: Yeah, Poland is pretty normal. We have socialized health care.
The room goes silent.
Classmate: So how’s that work?
Chris (enjoying all eyes on her):Well, you pay a tax and you can go to the doctor and you don’t pay out of pocket.
Jaws drop. Then a wave of questions. Chris answers them all easily because they are all just different versions of the same question…starting with…
Amazed classmate: Soooo, you or your kid gets sick, what do you do?
Chris: You go to the family doctor.
Another amazed classmate who had earlier admitted to not visiting the dentist in over 20 years: And do you have to pay?
Classmate: What about after hours?
Chris: You go to the after hours doctor.
Classmate: Do you have to pay?
Classmate: What about at night or on holidays?
Chris: You go to the ER.
Classmate: What about when you have a baby?
Chris: There’s no additional charge.
Classmate: What about a hip replacement or something like that?
Chris: It’s not a perfect system. You have to wait but it is theoretically possible to get it under NFZ.
Classmate: What if you lose your job?
Chris: You and your children keep your coverage (and around we go…)
Classmate: Wow. That must be nice not to have to worry about your kids going to the doctor.
Chris: It is.
Classmate: But it comes at a cost.
Chris: Yeah, in taxes.
Classmate: No, you have to live under the socialist regime.
Chris: Yes, yes, the socialist regime.
So greetings to you, my red comrades out there and enjoy your life under the socialist regime.