Here is a story which is too weird for the official weblog of the US Artists Initiative.
I have hitherto not mentioned on this blog the sad fact that I lost both my wallet and my cell phone on my very first day in Poland, and I’m pretty sure they were stolen. I didn’t want to do anything official about it.
“Rachel,” I said, “my only goal in coming to Poland was to avoid any contact with the Polish police. When my grandfather left here, in 1937 (Rachel has been very patient about listening to all my stories that begin with “When my grandfather left here, in 1937”), I assure you that he did not seek out any kind of unnecessary contact with the Polish police. It goes against fundamental Weinberg principles to voluntarily go to meet with the police. Consequently, I am not going to the police station.”
“Well,” she said, “someone might turn it in. You never know.”
I let her convince me to go with a nice volunteer, Anna, to the station to fill out a report.
Anna, who has studied in Edinburgh but is from Poland, and was able to translate for me, was no more enthusiastic than I was about going to the police station, but she kindly helped me anyway. We took a cab to a different part of town, and entered an oppressive building painted in shades of decaying blue, with ceilings lower than ceilings should be. After going in one wrong entrance and then another, describing my wallet and phone to both Anna and a desk officer, and calculating the value of my phone in zlotys, we had to wait to file the actual report.
“There are three people ahead of us,” said Anna.
We sat down on the steps of the station, and waited. All the chairs inside were being occupied by other people who didn’t look too happy about being at the police station.
At length, Anna and I were ushered down a narrow, terrifying Matrix-esque decaying blue hallway, with the officer’s heels clicking on the tiles ahead of us like the second hand on a watch. We turned left into Room 6, which I thought was going to be a Law-And-Order style interrogation room, with two-way glass, a table, and a good and bad cop.
“Don’t leave me,” I whispered to Anna.
My fears turned out to be unfounded. Room 6 was an ordinary office with desks and carpet. The officer, a Polish woman with long fingernails and blonde hair, took my statement, one item at a time, through Anna. She was very thorough.
“What is your name?” said Anna.
“Dara Weinberg,” I said.
“Do you have any identification?” said Anna.
I thought that that was already getting weird, but I took out my passport.
“What are your parents’ names?” said Anna.
My parents’ names? I had visions of my entire family being harassed by the Polish police, or worse yet, my statements implicating them in some kind of “file,” like in that The Lives Of Others movie.
“Why do you need that information?” I said, in my best child-of-Sixties-radicals tone. The officer did not look happy, and barked something at Anna that sounded something like “Documentariat!”
“For the documentation,” Anna translated. I gathered that the computer wouldn’t let the officer move forward without entering something in that field.
I reluctantly gave her my parents’ names, feeling like I had betrayed the Weinbergs. I’m sorry, Mom and Dad. I didn’t tell her where you live.
The statement-taking moved forward with no further incidents. We were done in about ten minutes, and Anna and I escaped into the sunlight of a beautiful Poland afternoon. We walked back to the Festival Club, crossing the river along the way, for lunch.
I do not expect them to find my wallet.