Today I went outside in the yard of the blok to put aside some bags of leaves for the upcoming workshops, in which we will sheet mulch one of the garden beds. I selected bags that were mostly leaves (no garbage), and put a nice sign on them (Please don’t throw away. For neighborhood garden.) and set them out of the way of the trash man.
As I was doing this, a woman came up and started yelling at me. She wasn’t asking me anything—she was yelling. I am pretty sure she did not want me to put the bags where I was putting them. So I said, “Gdzie, mogę?”—”Where can I?” But she just kept yelling.
I recognized the word brudny (dirty) or maybe it was brzydki (ugly). I said, “Nie są brzydki, to liście,”—”They aren’t ugly. They’re leaves.” I wanted to say, “They aren’t dirty. They’re leaves,” but frankly sometimes the wrong word comes out. Either way, it didn’t satisfy her. She kept yelling but there was nothing more I could say. It’s amazing how if you don’t say anything, people will just keep talking.
She finally walked off with her little dog. That’s my neighbor!
There is a woman who is always in my yard. Woman-of-the-bench I call her. She is always on the bench and she is always talking. Her voice is a monotone in that all the syllables have the same stress, but she spits them out in even little packets so it sort of sounds like a machine gun, but slower. These packets bounce around between the buildings, a chamber of echos. I can hear her from my 5th floor apartment. Rat-a-tat-tat every day.
Well, she was sitting in her usual spot, with two other woman of a similar retirement age. I approached, but before I could ask my question, which was going to be, “Where do you think I could store these bags of leaves for one week?” She asked me why I was piling up those bags over there. I explained that they were for the garden that will be built in the yard next week. Then she launched the attack. The words flew. I got the idea that she knew of the project (to grow veges and herbs in the yard) and didn’t approve. I think she was saying, “I don’t want any herbs. I don’t need any herbs.” I think.
Finally, I told her, “I don’t understand what you’re saying.” I figured she wanted to know by what authority I was allowed to do such a thing so I told her I had permission. “Who? Who?” she said. “WSM,” I replied, which is the neighborhood council that gave me permission. Thank god it has initials and I didn’t have to say what the initials stood for. But then she kept asked me, “Kto polecie? Kto polecie?” and I thought it meant, “Who is flying?” which it sort of does, and I didn’t know how to answer that question. Finally, the old ladies just ignored me, even though I kept standing there stupidly for some time.
Later I found out what “Kto polecie?” means. It means: “Who ordered it?” In Poland, it seems, nothing happens without an order from someone. Maybe a better literal translation could be, “Who let the shit fly?”