Posts Tagged ‘Life in Poland’

Snow Removal?

Posted: December 14, 2010 in Lublin, Poland

The title of the video: How to shovel a sidewalk to tick off your neighbors.

Once the snow falls, snow removal becomes one of the hottest topics of conversation here. That’s probably true in most winter locations, of course. The difference in Poland is that¬†snow removal is much talked about, but little done about. (I know – that’s not correct grammar – so what). We got around a foot of snow 2 weeks ago, on a Monday. Now, in any country, a foot of snow takes a while to clear. In Wisconsin, people would stay home, schools would close, etc., to give the plows a chance to do their job.

In Poland, nothing closes. Ever. I heard some schools closed last year for a couple of days due to snow, but in our 11 winters in Poland, our kids have never had a snow day. So, when the foot of snow fell, people kept driving – and of course, the plows had a terrible time removing the snow. Some people took a couple of hours to go 15 miles, begging the question – why? Why bother? Just stay home! Nope. That’s not Polish culture. Yet.

As soon as the snow began to fall, though, people started complaining about the plows, and the poor job they were doing. When I would try to say – well, they can’t plow, the streets are full of cars, my friends just looked at me like I was from Mars. Most of the snow had fallen by evening rush hour, and the city quickly became gridlocked. Finally the city government closed Lublin to semi traffic, and began to close down streets, one at a time, so the plows could come through. Again, when I asked my friend why they didn’t just close the schools, universities and government offices for the day (which would take care of at least half the drivers), he said: well, who knew the plows would do such a bad job? You can’t plan ahead for that.¬† (As an aside, the forecast predicted at least 10 inches or so of snow)

The company that plows our street took 10 days to get to it. 10 days. They have to pay a very hefty fine for being so late, but still. 10 days? It didn’t particularly bother me – we do most things without our car, and I love walking in the snow. My neighbor was very upset, though. 10 days does seem a little bit long, doesn’t it? We live right in the middle of the city, not way out in the boonies, somewhere.

That’s partly why the video is so funny. Everyone along our street shoveled around their cars, shoveled in front of their garages, and maybe in front of the entrances to the aparment buildings. But no one was going to shovel the whole street – or heaven forbid, the sidewalk – which still hasn’t been cleared. So islands of snow developed – when most of the cars would be gone to work during the day, it was like some kind of alien landscape of huge white mushrooms.

The last couple of winters have seen progressively more snow. It will be interesting to see if Poles begin to change some of their habits – like staying home, cancelling school, etc. If not, oh well. Kaye gave me a pair of snowshoes last year.

Even Poles laugh at the their own bureaucracy – probably the citizens of most countries do. European bureaucracies, especially post-communist ones, seem to be in a class all their own, however. I have been pleasantly surprised this year just how nice all the government workers have become. But – some other things haven’t changed. Yet.

We picked up our car from the shipping company on Friday, and we have the rest of the week to make it to the local customs office to clear our personal items and begin the process of getting back the money we paid to cover customs and taxes. Wouldn’t you know it, though, the shipping company didn’t give me one necessary document – so I have to wait. Holiday this week, Independence Day, so it’s a short week. Hopefully the paper comes in time so we won’t pay a fine.

Meanwhile, we have been in the process of getting our temporary residence cards. We entered Poland August 14, so we have until November 13 on our tourist visas. I turned in all our paperwork about 2 weeks ahead of the deadline – in other words, in plenty of time. The very polite young woman in the immigration office, however, wrote down the wrong date on the outside of our files. On Monday I went in and asked about our papers, and she was suprised to see me. She thought we still had another 2 weeks. So all of a sudden she had to get busy with our case. When she reviewed it, she realized that one of our documents needed to be rewritten. I got it done, brought it in, but then once again – it wasn’t quite right. Did I mention there’s a holiday this week? If we don’t have the decision by Friday, we have to leave the European Union to get our passports stamped. No big deal – IF WE HAD A CAR!

Since the car won’t be cleared by customs by Friday (customs clearance is likely to take another month), we may have to take a train, or fly, to Ukraine. Not outrageously expensive, but it means a train trip in the middle of the night, with a return in the middle of the night as well. Sigh.

My buddy here says files in government offices need to “ripen.” He laughs when I dream about the possibility of getting something settled in a few hours, or days. When I told him how I always saw people dashing from one office to another in the same building, he said that’s because carrying papers back and forth gives them (the papers) more importance. He said I really wouldn’t want my case to be settled so soon. Then it would look as if they really hadn’t given it the time and effort required for such a weighty matter.

Okay. Whatever. Just please – the cases weigh enough already now. Could we have our residence cards and customs clearance soon?

Follow-up: I got a call from the immigration office about noon today (wrote the above last night). We got approval for 2 years here, so we don’t have to leave the country. I still have two more visits to the office, so I think the final total will be 10 trips to the immigration office. Again, my buddy helped me understand – by waiting this long, having me come in so many times, and calling me 5-6 times, the lady in charge of our case demonstrated how important she was. He says it’s a good lesson for me – to understand that I’m not alone in this world, that I’m dependent on someone else, that bureaucrats are important people, too. Of course, he’s laughing so hard as he tells me these things – I’m tempted to kidnap him and send him to Arizona – see how he likes dealing with immigration!