After all these years I finally worked it out! The problem with the urząds, the sometimes poor customer service, the workmen who don’t turn up, the whole thing. The answer to life the universe and everything is not “42”, it is that in Poland your personal time is worthless. There is no other conclusion that manages to tie up so many loose ends in such a perfect way. Once you realise that you are unimportant and therefore your time is utterly insignificant, everything makes sense.
I came to this tardy conclusion courtesy of a salesman in the Sony shop in Arkadia. As some will know, I like cameras and so it was rather silly of me to catch up with latest reviews at dpreview.com, one of my fave camera review sites, because that is the road to temptation and hell. Sure enough, as I browsed the “review by rating” section my eyes were naturally drawn to those in the Gold Award section and like a moth to the flame I settled on the entry right at the top called ‘Sony SLT-A55’. I was one click away from disaster but just like that Nazi in Raiders of the Lost Arc I couldn’t resist – “It’s beautiful…….”. The review, now read three times in some detail, goes on to spin a tale of a camera like no other. A camera that is nothing less than ground-breaking, pivotal and destined to go down in history as one of the greats! I think they might be right and given that all this comes at a reasonable (ish) price I needed to get one in a slightly impulsive kind of way. After a failed attempt at one Sony shop, camera not in the country yet (as usual), I found myself a few days later in Arkadia and visited the shop there. The salesman was very helpful and told me they did indeed have them in stock now and I could buy one, no problem. We worked out the deal for a body and a better lens than the kit one plus memory card and so on. There was a problem though, their “system” could not recognise the camera and so I couldn’t buy one after all. I asked when I could buy one and he said “Tomorrow”. I told him I’d be there mid morning, gave him my business card and left.
Mid morning the following day I managed to squeeze out of the office and go to Arkadia to buy the thing. The minute he saw me I knew what was coming – “There’s a problem!”, he said. “Oh, yes?”, said I “and what might that be?”. “The system still doesn’t work with this camera…..blah blah”. He was genuinely sorry about this, admitted it was their mistake and suggested a better discount than we’d already agreed would be forthcoming as and when I could actually buy the thing. The question that had him flummoxed though was – “So why couldn’t you call me this morning and tell me that, rather me wasting an hour coming out here for nothing?”. Amongst all the other things he was thinking, the idea that I would consider this a waste of my (genuinely precious at the moment) time and that this would annoy me more than not being able to buy the camera had never entered his head.
Rather a long diversion there but the whole episode did strike a chord with me. Even the Sony guy, a reasonably good salesman by Polish standards, couldn’t give a flying hoot about how much of my time he might be wasting. The urząd’s opening hours prove that the government don’t care how much working time I waste. The meldunek office that requires three hour-long visits to do something that could be done on-line in ten seconds – really couldn’t care less. The myriad of people who just don’t turn up or turn up way past the appointed hour – they don’t care either. The people drobny-fishing in the shops or buying newspapers with dodgy credit cards – they don’t care. The drivers who when faced with an obstacle just sit there rather than going round it and the ones who spend hours deciding whether green means go and all those people who block the junctions – they certainly don’t care. Lets face it, in this country nobody bloody cares about my time. What is more frustrating is that nobody even seems to grasp the basic idea that my time has a value, not only a value to me but also to others in fact and until that basic value is understood people will continue to waste my time because to them it is nothing, just my time and I’ve obviously got plenty of it to spread around.
I have to assume that if they fail to recognise the value of my time then they have no concept of the value of their own time either, that if someone wastes their time they don’t get upset, don’t give it a second thought? Do they perhaps have no concept of the value of time altogether? Time is obviously not money to them, not by a long way. Poles would never waste money, come to that they wouldn’t waste food, or clothes or almost everything else – so why waste time in such a nonchalant way? Do they think it is never-ending, that we”ll all live forever so time becomes something to throw away lightly?
But then I come to thinking – if they think time is so worthless, why do they always need to push in front of you in the queue? I thought this was just because they wanted to save their time and waste yours but perhaps not. Given this new theory of time, the queue-pushing must be more to do with the innate desire to screw-thy-neighbour or to stop me from buying the last packet of Coldrex Maxi-Grip in the whole of Poland before they do. Similarly, the stupidly fast driving is more to do with the I’ve-got-a-big-dick syndrome than anything to do with getting somewhere faster and saving time. Look at how long it is taking the country to build roads, improve hospitals and the thousand other things that still need doing 20 years after the exit of the Soviets – is this all part of the same syndrome, is it a national disease this laissez-faire, manjana, laid-back attitude. It’ll get done one day so what’s the rush?
I admit I have a keen sense of the worth of my own time, perhaps slightly higher than average but I’m by no means a fanatic on this issue and I’ve met plenty of people who are far worse than me. The more I think about this, the more sense it makes. In Poland, time is cheap.
What do you think? Am I talking a load of nonsense or if not, why do people have this attitude here? Is it in the blood, is it cultural, conditioning, what is it and is it ever going to change?
PS – if anyone is interested in buying a whole lotta Nikon gear or a Canon G9, let me know before you see it on Allegro!