Last Friday, I woke up blaming the pain in my shoulder on our very firm Ikea mattress. After sleeping in three different beds last month, I was sure that a layer of memory foam would be just the thing to make our bed more comfortable and said as much to Ed. Sometimes when I get an idea like that, I get excited about, some might say obsessed with, the thought and can't wait to get the project finished and surprise Ed with the result.
A quick review of the Ikea website revealed that they had just the product I sought. Add to the mix, the fact that two different tram lines now run from our stop to Ikea, and you can see where this is going.
A 200cm x 140cm chunk of memory foam is big enough that you pick it up at customer service after paying at the register. While I was waiting, I started to worry that it might be too bulky or too heavy for me to carry to the tram stop and then home. Worst case, I would have them hold it until Ed was home with the van or just pay the delivery fee and have them bring it too the flat if it was too much to manage. I had other options, but taking it was what I wanted to do. I'd like to point out that I could have just as easily been someone new to Poznan, without a car, who had no other way to get this big bundle home.
When they brought it out on a cart, it seemed like something I could handle. But oh, the cart, this was so convenient. I rolled it out of the store, into the parking lot, no one was chasing me down saying you can't do that. (No, they don't connect their carts with a chain and have you put in a zl to use them.)
Having no car in the parking lot, I headed for the far corner, in the direction of the tram stop. I passed a covered bay where carts are collected. I could have left the cart there and carried my purchase a little further, but I decided that I was the customer and in this case, my needs were more important - very American thinking apparently. As tempting as it was to bring the cart all the way home (I never would), I left it in the far corner of the parking lot.
I had only walked a few yards and was waiting at the cross walk when I was accosted by a man about my age fussing at me in Polish. When I told him that I didn't speak Polish, he repeated himself, motioning toward the abandoned cart. I, again, told him that I didn't understand and waited to cross the street. This fellow, who was dressed neatly in casual clothes and wearing a backpack glared at me with such disgust; you could almost see the steam coming out of his ears. He then stomped off taking the cart back to where it belonged, and I went to my tram stop.
I'll be the first to admit that my behavior was selfish but not exactly criminal. Normally, I return carts to the assigned spot, but not that day because of my large parcel. Why was this cart so troubling to this stranger, who just happened to be walking down the street? He wasn't even an Ikea employee.
His behavior is even more bewildering to me because Polish people don't tend to engage strangers. (Except maybe to fuss - my friends with babies tell me that grandmotherly types dispense advice freely.) I have to compare him inserting himself very unpleasantly into my day with another outing not long after I moved to Poznan.
I was all dressed up, on my way to meet friends for a tour of the art museum. En route, I was looking for the official translator to get certified Polish copies of the English documents I had to supply for my resident permit. As I was looking up at signs, I stepped off the curb without realizing it and quick as a flash, I was landing face first on the cobblestone. I had a huge bump on my forehead, scraps on half of my face.
A bit dazed, I found a tissue in my purse to dab at my bleeding face. As I got up to walk home in search of an ice pack, I expected that people would ask if I was OK or if I needed them to call someone. (Yeah, I know there's still the language issue.) I kept telling myself, just say no, thank them and keep going, don't cry, whatever you do, don't start crying. I needn't have worried.
Not a soul spoke to me. I had to walk half a mile and passed at least 15 people on the sidewalk. No one said a word. It really surprised me - about as much as the bossy OCD fellow with the shopping cart obsession.
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Wondering how the story ends? Was Ed surprised? He did notice a large purchase at Ikea on our bank's website and asked about it. I told him it was a surprise, and he went looking around the apartment for the surprise. I was sure that as soon as he sat on the bed to take his shoes off that he would notice. The mattress is now 3 inches higher, but he didn't say anything. The next morning, I asked if he'd figured it out. No. "Memory foam," I shouted.
PS - I should add that some Polish people do reach out to strangers. (We have a lot of Polish friends who were all strangers at one point.) We have recently gotten to know the charming young couple who live below us. It's funny the way we met. A towel that was drying on our patio blew off onto theirs during a thunderstorm. We were going on vacation the next day and they weren't at home. So I left a note at their door explaining what had happened. When I checked my email in Versailles a few days later, there was a note from Norbert and Ewa. They had tracked me down via my blogs. All they had to go on was my name, so it was really good detective work.