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Excuse me, do you speak English? I’m lost

July 15th, 2009

Somewhere en route to Krakow, Miss GPS sent us down a gloriously smooth road that took us directly into a barricade. We could go no further. When we turned around, she insisted we try again. From up in space, Miss GPS didn’t see what we saw. 

So we pulled into a small market for directions to Krakow.  I walked up to one of the clerks. “Hello, do you speak English? I am lost.”  She shook her head no. The woman she was helping started talking to me, though, and boy did she have a lot to say. It was Polish, and I did not understand a word.

When I expressed to her that I did not understand her, she slowed down but still spoke in Polish, using every muscle in her face to emote, like some Jim Carrey, thinking that would help me better understand her. She was furious, it seemed, at something.  When she paused, I used mime to show that I was driving down the street and bam! there was a barricade and I had to screech to a stop. She nodded yes and went into her Polish tirade again. I think she was sympathetic toward me and angry at the Polish Department of Highways.

About then, a man came forward and asked if he could help. He spoke broken English. I need to get to Krakow, I said. Could he help?   He backed away from me and spoke to the grocery clerk, and by now there were 8 people in line trying to buy groceries who were not being helped. And they were all yelping in Polish — either in anger at me for slowing their day or in giving my new friend their suggestions on how I should get to Krakow. Or at least how I should get out of their store.

The line grew longer. A second grocery line was opened and it filled, but even people in that line were motioning all sorts of ways at my friend, arms flailing about in different directions as if they were all giving him their best suggestions on how I could get to Krakow.  My helper looked flustered.

Finally, he said to me, “Just follow me.”  We walked into the parking lot, he got into his car, he waved for us to follow, and we did, and after about 4 miles, at a roundabout, he waved at the turnoff with the sign for Krakow. I tooted my horn and he waved and I waved and I bet we will never meet again. 

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