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Friday, January 28, 2011

Don't Look at Them

I have noticed as I travel through the center part of Warsaw, particularly around Central Station, there are quite a few guys (some women) that loiter and seem to be just waiting for something. Essentially, these are the "homeless" people. I use the term "homeless" because I am not quite sure what to call them. I don't really know if they are homeless or not. I do know they "hang out" at the entrance to Central Station and seem to be there daily. I recognize them each day I pass through there on my way to work. Many of them "park cars" ... that insane and totally unnecessary act of directing drivers into open parking spaces that they may earn a few zloty. If the driver doesn't pay, there is a great chance your car will have some form of damage when you return. Clearly the police are aware of this "service" and yet do nothing about it. I guess one cannot deny another person of making a living.

But I digress ...

My real issue is that when I am within sight of one of these guys, it seems they lock in on me and the approach begins. I know he will ask for a cigarette or some money. Many, many people are walking around and he will immediately head toward me with some pitch for cash. I used to just look away and keep walking. Then I began to look at the person and let him finish his monologue before I say "No" (which is universally understood). Now, I give. I give a cigarette or a few zloty or at least tell the person as best I can that I do not have anything today. I figured he must have some reason for coming directly to me. Maybe he knows a little American history and understands that a Black man understands. Or maybe he knows stereotypes and figures a Black man understands homelessness or begging. Or maybe he just feels I am his best bet to get something as I am clearly a foreigner.I am not sure what is going through his head ... Next time, I will ask.


  1. They'll go for anyone. A log time ago I was approached by someone asking for money and I tried a dumb foreigner approach, not understanding what he wanted. He then spoke to me in English. I had to give him something.

    My general principle is one cigarette a day to a beggar and money only for 'services' eg looking after the car or taking the supermarket trolley back to the deposit area. There's also a standard 'wallet stolen and have to get back home' line in stations and even twice at the airport. A donation depends on the quality of acting.

    I look quite kindly on it all, as the worse place I experienced was around Victoria Station in London when I worked there: they could get aggressive.

  2. You know, I like this blog but every post seems to centre around the theme of 'black oppression'.

    I get it, black people had a really shit time in the past and probably many still do but so have the Poles, the Ukrainians, the Chinese.

    There's absolutely no reason why any Pole wouldn't share mutual understanding of oppresive regimes - why highlight the poor ones I don't know.

    and hey, If I wanted to be even more critical I'd say your sexist because every pronoun refers to masculinity. Have you ever analysed your own beliefs and actions? or what the message you put into the world connotates?

    but like I said, I like this blog.

  3. TEFEL:

    Thank you for your comments. I appreciate the honesty! I have a few responses:

    My whole purpose is to analyze my beliefs and actions.

    I use masculine pronouns for the sake of efficiency, but I do see your point.

    As for the oppression issue ... no, the Poles cannot understand. Mainly because oppression in the US for Blacks is extremely covert ... The blatant issues of prejudice are easily seen in Poland as well as for Poles. I hope you understand that. The purpose of the blog is Black Oppression. Denying it or not talking about it is what we do in America. The argument that being tired of it is racist in its own right.

  4. Hey Joel:
    Maybe it wasn't the colour of your skin that drew the various panhandlers but the make of your shoes.
    North American men have a tendency to wear very casual footwear, unlike European men.
    Perhaps your footwear was the "foreign beacon" which announced you as coming from America (i.e. the land of milk and honey with streets paved in gold).
    Perhaps they just viewed you as an easy foreign "mark"?

  5. Joel, that was a decent retort. Keep up the good work :)

  6. Basia:

    Thank you! I did not think of that ...