Poles are gadget freaks.
Perhaps it is the fact that their country was lost for so many years but, judging by the torrent of Xmas offers for satellite/GPS navigation systems, there’s no question that the Poles have a deep need to know exactly where they stand!
This has been a growing trend over the last, oooh, 2-3 years I’d say. Gradually more people have tried to discuss with me the ins & outs of the latest Tom-Tom, Bling-Bling or Navbuster gadget. They soon realise they picked the wrong guy and move onto another gadget-obsessed Pole. Taxi drivers have slowly but surely built an amazing array of Heath Robinson window mounted devices to demonstrate their priority lies with tracking the journey from A to B, rather than seeing out of the windscreen. More important than the actual navigation assistance is the ability to demonstrate their in-car electronics skills through the spaghetti of cables hanging from every orifice and their mastery of modern technology by spending the first 20 minutes of your journey prodding a small computer with a stylus so they can show you a map so small that the driver needs binoculars to see it, let alone me in the back seat! I swear, if I ordered a taxi to go from home to Plac Wilsona (an amazingly simple journey of about 2 minutes), most of them would spend more time fiddling with the sat-nav than actually driving. Well, the taxi drivers and the other 32 million sat-nav freak Poles, are going to be over the moon this Xmas as the gadget shops have obviously decided that 2007 is the year of sat-nav saturation.
The only serious competition is from LCD HD TVs. These things run sat-nav a close race in terms of being a “must have” item for Polish households. It is, you understand, very important for one’s status to be able to show guests to your home how you have obscured at least half of your entire wall space with LCD screen. The rule is simple, never mind the quality, look at the size! 42″ screens are now considered a bit on the small side and to be, as we are, completely without an LCD screen in the lounge is probably grounds for deportation. We have a lot of paintings on our walls and are worried that we’ve run out of space for more. How are we supposed to find room for a massive LCD TV? Anybody know a country where not having an gigantic LCD TV is still legal?
As an example of how desperate people are to get their hands on a giant screen, by far the largest billboard on my way home is from one of the local electro mega stores. It offers an outdated, not particularly good, but nevertheless giant screen on credit terms “raty”. You can sign up for 30 monthly payments of 147 PLN ($60, €40, 30 GBP) and take the thing home for Xmas. Thus, the greedy bastards (only one way of looking at it) feed the credit mountain by bringing LCD wallpaper to the homes of even those who cannot afford to pay for it. I suppose the upside is that there will be more vacancies for “credit controllers” somewhere between now and next Xmas. I fully expect to see billboards offering 3kg of heroin on similar easy terms before I die.