The Pole who came in from the cole

Baza Macniak

Baza Macniak. I’ve never met Baza. Only spoken with him a million times.

Let me explain. Baza and I are not friends. We can never be, after I once asked him what ‘Baza’ meant and he said, “Laughter” and I said, “Do you have an uncle called Roflsky?” A large group photo on our HR webpage “pioneers of the future” shows him to be short, pudgy, baby-faced, slightly cross-eyed, 30-35ish and completely nerd-like, with a stupid grin. I’d venture to call him cuddly if you won’t have any questions on my thoroughly heterosexual orientation.

Baza lives in a hick town called Kalisz in Poland and works for the P&W plant there. A brilliant engineer with a PhD in ‘Hot Sections’ and a couple of worldwide patents to his name, Baza is a hot-shot I talk to two, maybe three times a week. With a view to making engines as unsafe as possible for you to fly with.

Every time I call, Baza isn’t there at his desk and I have to leave a call-back message. He hasn’t ever called back. That’s not to suggest he’s snooty. He’s just an absent-minded, pain-in-the-ass, genius kretyn (that’s ‘jerk’ in Polish). And if he’s not there when I call, I have to call up half a dozen of his colleagues to try to track him down. Tried fixing up a specific call time but that hasn’t worked either. If Heisenberg had been alive, he’d have written a corollary to his Uncertainty Principle on Baza.

All this Greek to you? That’s ok. I have no idea what I’m talking about anyway.

Baza loves soccer, hates the current Pope and has never heard of Copernicus. No, I made that up. Of course he’s heard of old Nicky. If you’re Polish, it’s sacrilege not to know of Copernicus. It’s ok to not know of Marie Curie, she went and lived in France.

But in Poland, you say, “Copernicus who?” and there’s more than a 50/50 chance you’ll have a klobasa up the other end of your elementary canal. And Klobasas are big, a pretty tight interference fit. Unless you happen to be George Michael, of course. And boy, are these sausages spicy. The Służba Bezpieczeństwa love it, and not for the taste let me tell you.

Over the past 2 years that I’ve been in contact with Baza, one thing has become crystal clear. He’s a gigantic pain in the butt. Problems expand and become bigger when they come in contact with him. And he has this irritating habit of humming out loud or cursing to himself in Polish while he puts me on hold and starts searching for the info to pass on to me. As his pudgy fingers hit the keys and he falls upon the right webpage, his humming and cussing grows to a pulsating whistle. A sudden change in pitch and he’s chanced upon information which he shouldn’t share. Short rhythmic bursts mean he’s excited that the info he’s going to pass on to me proves him right.

Sometimes the rhythmic bursts can mean he can’t hold it any longer and just has to go take a leak. Once, while I was holding, there was an incongruous sound that didn’t fit in with his humming tone. It was more like rumble and there were two distinct rumbles. Like an F35 breaking the sound barrier. “What the hell was that?” said I.

“I..I…pass wind,” he said in an embarrassed whisper, “I eat too many klobasas for lunch. You lucky you not here.” Jesus, is this guy for real or what.

Baza can barely speak English and I frequently have to use Google Translate to get through to him. One day, at the peak of my annoyance, I asked him,”Hey, Baza, how do you say ‘butthead’ in Polish, man?”

A pained voice came down the line, “I have no direct thranslation, weel check. Whath you ask again? Buth head? I writhe this…aye…aaa…thee. OK, no problem, I geth back to you soon.” He hasn’t yet gothen back on that. I know he won’t.

I’m dying to teach you Polish because you’re getting complacent and it’s time you learnt something noo. I make efforts to learn new things every day. I’m always trying out new music, new sketches, new ideas for a post, new positions for …um…jigir-migir.

You think I’m sick. I’m just kidding, just trying to make you laugh. You need a laugh.

Polish is a sweet language with a lot of ‘sh’, ‘k’, ‘kh’, sounds. If you hear a Pole saying something that goes like ush, dosh thresh, khosh, sish, bash, goosh, kish, he’s not fuming at you or chewing you out. He’s counting to ten. My extensive Polish vocab is solely due to Baza.

It’s been some years now and our relationship has become real chummy. And in the west, the level of the chumminess of a relationship is directly proportional to the frequency, in conversation, of references to sex, gynecology, noise-makers in the anatomy and the embarrassing noises themselves.

The first thing two chums do is teach each other the dirtiest words in their respective languages while rolling around in mirth. Baza wasted little time teaching me the finer aspects of that brand of Polish. For example, the rear of a fat man is called ‘duja dupa’, whereas the same feature in a pert, young chic is ‘mawa poopcha’.

There, see? You learnt something new today. You’ve got to learn something new every day, doesn’t matter if it’s from the holy scriptures or about funny anatomical noise-makers, though, personally, I’d concentrate on the latter. Farting was meant to be funny, the Lord deemed it that way. Popes, Swamijis, Ayatollahs, Rishis and Munis, you think they’ve never had gas at least once in their lives?

It’s late. I mean it’s early. I’ve got to be at work within the hour.

Wyjechać. (‘beat it’ in Polish).

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