Sunday, 22 May 2011

"A helpful, friendly people"

On Wednesday I had to be in Łódź to speak at a conference which started with breakfast; I needed to be there for 9:00am. This meant catching a train that arrived just after eight. And unlike London to Rugby (83 miles, 48 minutes ) the 83 miles between Warsaw and Łódź takes 120 minutes. My train for Łódź would leave W-wa Centralna at six. To get to Centralna I had to catch the 04:51 service from W-wa Jeziorki.

And this is where my story begins...

The 04:51 from W-wa Jeziorki begins its journey in Radom, departing for Warsaw at 03:12 every day of the week. It stops at every small town along the way, and by the time it reaches W-wa Jeziorki, the first station within Warsaw's city limits, it is packed solid. Boarding the train, I had to stand in the corridor. The passenger compartment was full of rural-looking faces, hard-working and weather-beaten. Most are asleep, heads resting on rolled-up coats or jumpers. Many women were carrying large shopping bags full of lilies of the valley gathered in woodland somewhere between Radom and Piaseczno; they will stand at street corners selling the fresh wild flowers - a useful addition to tight budgets.

At W-wa Slużewiec, a middle-aged woman at the far end of the carriage woke up with a start, looked around and asked "Is this Żwirki i Wigury?" A chorus of fellow passengers replied, almost in unison, "Nie!" ('no'). And so the woman went back to sleep. W-wa Żwirki i Wigury was the next stop. No one volunteered that information to her, no one woke her up. Nor did they wake her up at W-wa Rakowiec, nor at W-wa Aleje Jerozolimskie. She finally woke up at Warszawa Zachodnia as the train was emptying of people. She'd missed her stop and had to wait for a south-bound train to get her back to where she had been heading. Stoically she got off the train, not a trace of animosity towards the passengers who had so singularly failed her. In other words, this is all she could have expected. Unhelpful indifference. Was she an office cleaner, starting work at 5am for eight zlotys an hour? In which case, she'd have turned up at least 30 minutes late, to face a reprimand and lost revenue.

Scenes like this show that for all of Warsaw's sophistication and rapid economic advance, there's still another Poland that's struggling to make do. And that lack of good will of her fellow-passengers; each one aware of her predicament, no one in the least bit willing to offer her assistance - either by offering more information, or by waking her up at her stop. Such pitifully low levels of social harmony, such scant regard as to the plight of a fellow hard-working human being. (In case you're asking, I was standing some five metres away; the gangway was packed with passengers.)

This time last year:
Familiar shape in the sky

This time two years ago:
Feel like going home

This time three years ago:
Mr Hare comes to call


toyah said...

@Michael Dembinski
Sorry for the sarcasm. But wasn't it Warsaw that very recently robbed this Indian fellow of his bike? As you can see, some of them can activate themselves here and there.
Anyway, thanks very much for this post. Very impressive. It wouldn't surprise me if it were published on my blog.

Unknown said...

I have had this story on my mind on some level or other more or less all day. The best way I can relate my thoughts is in the words of some anonymous other I have pilfered from the internet:

"This is a little story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody.

There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it.

Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it.

Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody's job.

Everybody thought that Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn't do it.

It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done."

It is interesting living here . . . having not grown up in this country I see behaviour on a daily basis that is very different indeed than what I grew up with. It is truly amazing the wide variety of social behaviours that can be witnessed from one country to the next.

David Hughes said...

Read Latané and Darley on Bystander Theory, and don’t be so harsh on your fellow passengers … or yourself.