Summary: Have you ever forgotten something you needed for a long trip, or better yet, had your bags lost entirely? If so, you can probably relate to Jakub's current predicament. Somehow our esteemed Games EIC managed to become the only Polish person on a press trip to get lost in Poland. After hearing his story, you may never want to fly abroad again!
How this relates to this article will be clear in just a moment. You see, while I don’t often take PR trips, and never for a single game, this time was special. Activision had set up an event that took place in Poland, my home country, a place I hadn’t seen in 5 years. How could I resist? The details of the official trip I’ll save for later, except to say that it was an absolute blast and took place in the most beautiful countryside I’ve ever seen.
What’s important is my trip “back” to Canada. You see, it didn’t happen. Normally, when I travel, it’s exclusively between the US and Canada. A certificate of citizenship and driver’s license or other government photo ID will suffice. Now, this won’t work when flying directly from Poland to Canada, but I did have a Polish passport – after all, I still am a citizen of the country and did get one to get in. Activision had been so nice as to repeatedly, multiple times, at every occasion, warn that I needed a passport. So I had one. Just not the one for the trip back. Apparently, if I wanted to – as a proven citizen of Canada – return to Canada through the US, I needed a Canadian passport. Not, mind you, to satisfy Canadian authorities (because since I’d be coming through the US, I could just say I was in the States and fly in on my regular ID), but to make the Americans happy.
Oh, and when I found this out, I’d had about 8 hours of sleep in the last 72, including 2 very, very drunken hours the night before – and naturally was so hung-over that I didn’t know if I was shaking from the hangover or from being denied entry on the airplane. Well, technically, I was allowed on the airplane but the paper-pushers at the airport said I’d be in for a jolly old time with American Customs if I made it. Days, weeks perhaps, held in limbo. Supposedly, there’s an ancient Chinese curse that goes “may you live in interesting times”; it was shaping up to be an interesting day at the least. Here I was – tired, hung-over, jet-lagged, and stuck in Poland. Friday the second was starting to feel like Friday the thirteenth.
Both documents would take a few days to approve, with the US visa being “if we like you”, and the Canadian passport being “almost certainly”. The US visa was cheaper, the Canadian passport would bring me dangerously close to being broke. Despite all assurances otherwise, my bank card just would not work here.
Since my level of sobriety and awareness, though no doubt much improved by the shock of being left in Poland, was still short of that of rational thought, Monika had been so nice as to volunteer her own time and cell phone as to make the necessary calls, and find out what I needed to do. She’s also blond, and like most Polish women, absolutely gorgeous – my angel to the rescue. I guarantee you that both Russ Fischer and Dale Nardozzi, two Americans who I’d hung out with on the trip, can back me up on my point about Polish girls – it’s not some overblown sense of national pride. The average Polish chick is balls-swelling hot.
I left my heavy bag (unfortunately, my camera with it) and packed off on a cab to downtown Warsaw. By now, I’d started feeling the self-recrimination, guilt and the budding pressure of a bout of depression building. I had no time for that - I needed a passport, and to do that I had to get a photo, fill out 6 pages of paperwork and do that in two hours because embassies, like banks, don’t want your business and close a couple of hours before everyone gets off work.
I go to the embassy, get directions to a passport photographer, get the paperwork and start running my errands. Then, I wait for their lunch to be over so I can drop it all off. It’s an hour long. This is my first downtime since this morning and I’m feeling the budding sense of depression bloom. I have no idea where I’ll get the money for a ticket yet, I don’t know where I’ll stay, and I have an hour to think about it. Playing my GBA SP and PSP only makes it worse.
Eventually, I dial 1-800-Mommy and inform her of the situation, once I’m sure she’s likely to wake to the phone. I don’t think to ask for money yet, since I don’t know how much I’ll need and I have enough to last me for any immediate eventualities, including cab trips to friends near Warsaw or, if need be, a train ticket to Wroclaw (my home city in the southwest of Poland).
After dropping off all the paperwork at the consulate, making sure it’s to their satisfaction, and picking up my bag at the airport, I decide to head to Wroclaw. I’ll have to bang on a few doors when I get there, since I don’t know the numbers and phone books aren’t exactly easy to find, but the friends there are better and, if I get desperate, I can live with some family. Coming out of the airport with my bags, a man walks up to me, starts reaching for my bag and repeating “taxi! taxi!” He asks where to in broken English, I reply “train station” in English, and he says “60 zloty” ($20USD). Since the train station is just by the consulate, and my trips there cost me just over 20 zloty, I give him, in perfect Polish, my response: “spierdalaj”. Use your imagination for the translation.
Also, a tip for those traveling in Poland – only take corporate, licensed cabs at cab stands. They’ll have the fare per kilometer written on the side and are way more trustworthy than the unlicensed (read: mafia) cabbies. They can still take tourists the long way around town, but you won’t be making any health care donations to your new Russian mob friends in an alley in the middle of nowhere, either.
After arriving at the train station and getting my ticket I find I missed my train by seconds. Literally, I was running down the stairs to the tracks and saw it rolling away. A sinking feeling started to hit my stomach as I realized I’d had another 2 hours and 15 minutes to think about my predicament. By this time, I knew the only way to keep positive was to be productive, but I had no immediate problems I could tackle. Worse, it was apparent I’d be away from work for an unknown amount of time and this was unscheduled... but this is where opportunity knocks: hence my Polish travel log.
I whip out the camera and start snapping pics. Most don’t turn out well due to the poor lighting, but it kills time and keeps me feeling productive. Eventually the train’s arrival is called out, and as I make my way aboard to a second-class seat that beats most “first class” experiences I’ve had on North American trains, I wonder where I’m going to stay overnight.
|© Copyright 2003 FS Media, Inc.|