19:00 hrs Lodz Kaliksa to Warszawa Wschodnia making its first start from Platform 1 at Lodz Kaliska. Photo (taken on an iPhone 4) BTWT.
I have mixed feelings about Christmas. A week to go and I am feeling harried. Polish shop assistants are never particularly helpful at the best of times and it is not going to be my lucky day. I want a coffee machine, but I don’t want to spend a fortune. The girl looking after this section of the shop shows me a machine costing 499 zloty.
As it’s a demonstration model you might be able to get a discount, she says helpfully.
OK, I’ll buy it if you knock off 10%.
She vanishes and comes back, You can have it for 449 zloty.
I’ll take it!
She comes back with a box and an official looking piece of paper. Tell the girl at the counter to ignore the bar code on the box and to scan this instead. I join the long queue at the till which slowly shuffles forward.
At last I’m at the counter. The girl scans my paper and then scans the box. Something is wrong. She makes a phone call and indicates that I should wait and starts to serve the next person in the queue.
Time drags, I ask her why I have been made to wait. Because the goods don’t agree with the description.
But you haven’t looked at the goods, you only looked at the box.
Why are you shouting at me?
I’m not shouting at you. I’m trying to make myself heard against the din in the shop. Please call the manager.
Which manager would you like – my manager or the manager in charge of the coffee machines?
Whatever manager can resolve the problem.
I win my battle and go to look for my next present…
It’s evening and my last task is to get a packet of Christmas cards to Warsaw – the first leg of their journey to England. This would seem to be a job tailor-made for przesylki konduktorskie, the Polish equivalent of the erstwhile Red Star package service.
According to the list, train 91115/4 the 18:15 TLK ex Lodz Kaliska arr. 20:30 Warszawa Centralna runs daily. It is ideal. I arrive at Kaliska at 18:00 and look for the train.
There is no 18:15 TLK instead there is an 18:14 IR departure from platform 2! I approach the IR, there are about half a dozen railway officials in the Guard’s van. I ask for the guard and explain my problem. We don’t do przesylki konduktorskie, you need a PKP IC TLK train.
But you are running instead of the TLK train advertised on the przesylki konduktorskie, I’ve already arranged for the train to be met in Warsaw. Look it’s Christams and these are Christmas cards. Couldn’t we come to some private arrangement?
I’m not losing my job for some Christmas cards.
I have a similar conversations with the driver with similar results. Look, I say, if you all loose your jobs next year, when your customers all switch to Polski Bus because of the way you treat them, don’t blame me. I hope that all your points end up frozen set the wrong way!
As the 18:14 draws out the guard yells at me, Try the 19:00, it’s not long to wait.
I have meals to cook and things to do, but it seems I have no choice. I go down to the ticket hall and read the next chapter of Steig Larsonn’s masterpiece The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo on my iPhone. The tale of one girl’s battle against injustice – suitably garnished with violence of the most horrific kind – is strangely calming. I recommend the book, but it is not for the queasy.
It is 18:50, I make my way to platform 1 and ask the conductor whether he can accept a package. You need the guard in the compartment next to the engine. I find the guard, he is polite and efficient, I have the exact 26 zloty change and we soon conclude our transaction. I phone my contact in Warsaw and explain the new pick up time.
The guard blows his whistle and the train slowly draws out of the platform. I take the photo which appears at the top. Suddenly there is a shout, the driver applies the breaks and the train skids to a halt. Someone is running across the car park far below us. He vanishes into the stair well. After what seems an eternity he appears at the top and darts across the platform to board the train.
The guard blows his whistle a second time and the train draws out. I have mixed feelings about Christmas.