Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Polish Post

So I didn’t write this. Jon will have to fill in the details, but someone in his mission wrote an essay comparing Polish driving to Communism, complete with footnotes. I found a copy I have a few months ago, and for the betterment of society I scanned it and transformed it to a word document. It’s a little lengthy for a blog post but well worth it if you have time to kill or want to procrastinate (so pretty much everyone here). I changed some spelling and grammar, but everything else should be as it was written. If there are any typos, let me know.

Poland Warsaw Traffic as a Product of the Communist System

Kenneth John Hartvigsen

being an exploration of a number of illogical discrepancies in the driving mind compared and contrasted with historical applications of communist rule.


In this thesis, the author will explore a number of traffic anomalies, misjudgments, and violations, and their relationship (if any) to the once Communist System. It is not the aim of this paper to pass judgment on the communist system (hereafter referred to as “The System”), to label, or demean the population of drivers in the city of Warsaw Poland, nor to shift blame for personal deeds onto any government system. Indeed this paper was undertaken in a hope to research, and through research to bring a new level of understanding regarding the burgeoning society of drivers in the city of Warsaw.

The author, at the onset of this work, acknowledges an unsure variable, or possible bias, in the research group; this being that the author is an inhabitant of the city of Warsaw. However, the author feels that said possible bias should be overlooked for such a general observational research project, for the following reasons:

1 – The author is not a long-time resident of Warsaw, having lived within the city boundaries for less than one year. Furthermore, he did not reside in the test area during the time of the System. This clearly allows the author to enjoy and “outside” point of view, from the vantage point of the inside.
2 – The author at the present time is not, and has not been, a driver on the Warsaw streets. Yet, he has on many occasions had the advantage of being the passenger, providing an un-compromised examination of road activity.

The observation of Warsaw road condition as it exists today comprises the main body of the research for this paper. These observations were made over a span of ten months, from January to November of the year two thousand. During that time the road were observed under a variety of weather conditions. This was done in order to grasp an overall average of driving behavior. While such a process would be unsuitable for any specific and conclusive work, the abstract Research goal the author was well served by this “detached” method of observation. In addition the observations were made from a variety of locales throughout the city, in nearly every dzielnica (a Polish term, similar to the meaning of district, or borough) and from a number of distinct vantage points. That is to say, as one walking on the street, while sitting on a bench in a park or at a bus stop, while riding a bus, while riding a Tram, while riding in a car.

While the author alone remains responsible for the research and conclusions contained in this report, he feels obliged to give credit and thanks to a number of individuals for various contributions to the work These include Natalie Noel for the inspiration required to undertake such a task, and Steven Katz, for his financial assistance, including the management and direction of funds and contributions necessary to the work. Beyond those named, a debt of gratitude is owed to Jon Fredrickson, whose groundbreaking work in Male Bathroom Psychology was in many ways a spring board to this project.

The Following traffic occurrences will be sited in the work:

The unofficial creation of a second lane, on a one lane road, which only accommodates your car

Failure to merge into the left lane, when the right lane is ending, until the right lane has abruptly ceased before you

Honking your horn at another car, whose driver has no control over his personal progress, ie in a traffic jam, or when a car’s engine has stalled/killed

At a crosswalk, when a car has stopped to allow the safe passage of a pedestrian, and a second car chooses to pass the first car, instead of stopping in turn behind it

Double parking on a one-way road

Driving on the sidewalk

Each of the above mentioned traffic occurrences will be discussed using the following pattern:

1) A description of the specific behavior will be given (any name of people or places will be changed as they do not contribute directly to the understanding of the act)

2) A fact (historically attested) about communism will be presented, in comparison, or contrast ot the driving behavior

The author reserves the right to deviate from the above established pattern when deemed necessary for further exploration, or deeper understanding. Any such deviations will be explained, and validated within the work.

I. Spontaneous “Second Lane” Creation

1) This specific driving act begins with a road comprised of two lanes of traffic, traveling in opposite directions. One car (Car A) is traveling in one of the lanes (there is no relevance as to which direction car A is heading) at a normal (gauged by the flow of traffic) speed. As is customary, Car A is staying on its side of the median, separating its lane from that of oncoming traffic. Another car (Car B) is coming up behind Car A. Car B, with no warning, or explanation from common road practice, or laws of automobile engagement, pulls up along the right side of Car A, spontaneously creating a second lane of traffic in the same direction. Often this act causes distress, as a road with only two lanes has no space for three cars traveling abreast of one another, car A frequently within very close proximity of the oncoming traffic.

2) When viewing the above behavior, the author is reminded of the 1917 revolution. One must concede that said revolution took place in Russia, an different country from the study group. However, as it was the beginning of The System it certainly has had a lasting effect on the cultural mind set of Eastern European peoples.

I don’t believe it is hard to imagine Car B as a group of enthused Marxists, disenchanted with the self glorifying position held by Car A. They push him out of power, and into oncoming traffic. It is only through sound judgment, and quick hands that Car A is able t\o escape unharmed.

It is then with hindsight that we may fully enjoy the irony of the moment, when yet another car (Car C) comes up along Car B, the young upstart himself now dodging for his life.

II. Merging... Eventually

1) It is not unusual in any major city, to find one lane of traffic merging into another. (1) For this example, we will assume that the right lane is merging into the left; that is to say, at the end of the block on which our example takes place, there is no far right lane. As a number of cars travel down the other several lanes (apart form the far right, or “Lane X”) a few cars, although aware of the road’s shifting identity (a sign is posted) will drive down Lane X, to the very edge of it’s existence. Then, at literally the last minute, these cars will turn on their turn indicators, expecting to be let into the next lane of traffic.

2) This behavior seems to be a parallel of the communist ideal, that all people are equal. The cars driving on Lane X expect to be treated just as the cars in the other lanes, regardless of their individual standing; where they come from, where they are going. Is it a bitterly funny coincidence that the other cars in the example allow the cars in Lane X to merge whenever they please? Perhaps just as the car’s drivers once though nothing amiss, as their colleagues collect wages and benefits from jobs that at times, they weren’t really completing.

The author is also reminded of the social mind trap, as the mentioned cars prefer not to act on their own, to improve the situation. Instead, they ask for other drivers (society at large) to make allowances and efforts for them. All of society giving a little, for the well-being of the “Party Bosses,” who play the games, with their own rules.

III. Honking in a Traffic Jam

1) There are many times and places, where movement in one’s car is not determined by personal will alone. We must take for example, a crowded parking lot, where many cars are crowding toward few open spaces; a turn lane, whose progress is impeded by pedestrian crossing the street; a traffic jam. As cars sit, waiting for those blockages to naturally fix themselves, other cars begin to hon. Despite the fact that there is no way for the first group of stationary cars to move, there second group will ask them, via horn, to “Get to Business!” (2)

2) The author finds this act to be very unusual, given the now historical fact of “waiting on line.” As has been highly documented in popular culture and scholarly works, it was common for inhabitants of Communist occupied territories, to have to wait in extremely long lines, for food, and other necessary commodities. The author, having not lived under The System would suppose that the experience of having waited in these lines would instill the virtue of patience. Or yet again, perhaps it is the forced waiting that the drivers recall, as their cars come to a stop. Perhaps they honk in proud decree that they have waited enough, and that there time is now!

The author sees yet another possibility in this traffic occurrence, which has been termed in other scholarly works “The overactive desire toward democracy.” (3) Just as in a true democratic state, all members of the population have the right and privilege of voting, and “having their say,” all of the cars in this example seem to take advantage of this new free voice society in a startlingly enthusiastic way. Especially in today’s technologically advanced world, it is no stretch of the imagination to view the car as an extension of the driver; “Does not [our very] existence and being… provide for us, the freedom of [speech, and expression]”? (4)

IV. Passing at a Crosswalk

1) First we must imagine a crosswalk; that is, a painted barrier on the street, which allows people to cross on foot, unharmed by traffic. It is important for this example that we do not confuse a crosswalk with an underground tunnel, or a skyway. At first, a person is waiting to cross the street; he must be careful because this crosswalk is not governed by a traffic signal. The walker must wait for a break in the traffic, or trust a thoughtful driver, who has stopped for the benefit of the pedestrian. One car (Car A) sees the pedestrian waiting to cross, and begins to slow his car. As Car A comes to a complete stop, the pedestrian begins to cross in the appropriate area. Then, another car (Car B) comes from behind Car A. we can only assume that the driver of this car sees Car A, and the pedestrian, the fact being that in most countries of the world, and eye examination is required before a license to drive will be issued; yet Car B does not slow down, does not stop, but chooses to speed up, and pass Car A. In the process, the pedestrian is unharmed, but certainly left shaken.

2) Stalin.

The author feels that no more can, or should be said.


V. Double Parked on a One Way Road

1) Adding to the overall confusion of the Warsaw streets, is the existence of a number of one way streets; that is to say, a street with only one lane of traffic, only traveling in one direction. In this simple, yet outstanding traffic occurrence, a car (Car A) is parked along the side of the road, in an appropriate (even marked) parking place. Car A is in no way an obstacle. Then another car (Car B) parks along side Car A (this behavior is sometimes referred to as ”double parking”) – not in a marked parking place, but in the middle of the one lane of traffic. Suffice it to say, this can be the cause of a great deal of confusion.

2) “My time is more important than your time!” (5) – The rallying cry of a new capitalist society! We must not overlook that the severe oppression on the Polish people has finally fallen to the wayside, revealing a vital child, quite bent on righting the wrongs of its fathers. This new society, and new ideal, doesn’t’ seem to stop running, not for an instant. If there’s nowhere to park, I’ll park in the street. My time is more important than your time.

This behavior, tends to spark another unique reaction. As stated before, there is little chance of slowing down a Warsaw driver, once he’s going. Therefore, when someone is parked in the street, we must find another way to go. Perhaps...

VI. Driving on the Sidewalk

1) The author wishes to stress that this particular deed is not as common as the others treated in this paper. None the less, it is too common to be overlooked, or considered a “fluke.” It is indeed as simple as stated, when a car’s driver feels that his progress had been impeded, he will occasionally drive off o f the road, on the sidewalk, on grassy areas, on triangular paved traffic medians.

Perhaps the most puzzling thing to the author about this severe action, is that it in no way inspires negative attention from other drivers. There will be no horns honked, no sideways glances thrown. The driving world in general finds no fault in this driver, or the driver’s act.

2) After searching through a number of the most recent and up-to-date scholarly works on the aftermath of communism in Eastern European society, along with a thorough examination of the original and seminal communist works (including M.V. Bergsten’s monumental exploration, Marx... Sharks... Battle Carts) the author is convinced that this is just stupid. There is no excuse, or explanation. It is stupid, stupid, stupid.


The author (as stated in the introduction) intended this work to help build a bridge of understanding to the world of Eastern European Driving. He intended for this to be the first in a long line of specific investigations into the Polish driving mind. The author has since had a change of heart.

There is no hope in understanding the drivers of Warsaw. There is no hope in explaining the things that they do, or the way that they think. The author had a great desire to understand the things which he saw, d hoped to find a greater corn-on by searching the past.

Instead the author has found a new and searing confusion, a blotch an his own consciousness, a darkness of the mind. He feels now to have made of himself quite a fool. He failed, and if this paper bad not taken so much time and effort, on the behalf of so many, it would be stricken from the record.

Let this work now stand as a record against the author, and his foolishness. He begs of you to stay off of the Warsaw streets, and not to study their wary, or thought…

Do not do as I have done.

Kenneth Hartvigsen
Warsaw Poland
November 2000

(1) Rules of the Road: A Layman’s Guide; Heath R Hall, Gladstone Publishing 1937
(2) The Cry of the Horn; Stone Lampert, Outland Publishers Lt. London Aukland Santa Fe 1976
(3) Hey Mr. Democracy! A children’s guide to politics; Samuel Trenton, Sleight & Manham ltd. 1965
(4) Chicken Hand Sally: An Eskimo Faerie Tale; Elizabeth Halbert, North Sea Publishers Inc. 1928
(5) Galaretka, Świat, Moja Opowieść; Aleksander Dzylet, Lampstand Publishing 1994


Warren said...

Jon, take note I got the accent marks or whatever they are over the S and c in the footnote.

JonnyF said...

I have been looking for my copy of this.
I think your grammar checker may me a little comma happy.

A few notes on this paper.

-Elder Hartvigsen was my companion in the mission office at the time he wrote this. It took him about 2 p-days to write it.

-The pseudo-intellectual tone is completely intentional. The footnotes are all completely fake.

-I have witnessed all of the the "traffic occurences" he discussed. They are all common to some degree.