The 'Invisible' Change in 'Polish Attitudes'

Yesterday, I was lucky to emcee the biggest investment fund conference in Poland (Fund Forum, 8th edition). A very interesting experience in its own right, no doubt, packed with data, projections, forecasts and a healthy dose of good humour. Little did I know, however, that after I finished with the closing remarks on the stage, at about 4p.m., the adventurous part of the day was only to start.
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I left the hotel where the conference was staged thinking a 1,5km walk would be a good idea to avoid the traffic jams and stretch my legs before another 3 hours on the train. After a brief SMS exchange with a friend regarding which train we were going to catch to be able to spend some time together, we decided on the 16:54 InterCity WARSAW-KRAKÓW connection, which - as we thought at the time - would bring us to Kraków soonest. There was another train 30 min. later, (called #TLK) at 40% of the price, but it needed an extra hour to reach its destination, so, all things considered, we decided to go for the earlier option. The train was as packed as it gets. Suffice it to say that at the Warsaw Central Station itself, every single seat in the restaurant car was taken.

From a 'PKP situation' to an 'old-time business opportunity'

We left Warsaw on time. Little did we know back then, however, that reaching Kraków would involve changing trains in the middle of a field, 100km south of Warsaw, 'climbing' the TLK that has since caught up with us and stopping once again at the Miechów railway station, 40 minutes north of Kraków, only to hear over the train speakers that 'there was another emergency somewhere on the way and the train would not leave for at least 120 minutes'. We were also informed that buses would be provided. After this, most of the 200+ passengers left the train and started making phone calls. That evening, no means of local transport was left unattended in Miechów. Every taxi, bus, shuttle, car-sharing service, every Uber driver was given a call to see if there was a chance for a quicker and more reliable trip back to Kraków. Without getting into too many details, let's just say that quite many private drivers in Miechów made very good money that evening and let's leave it at that.

Choosing fun over misery

After an extra hour in Miechów, another announcement was made of the station's speakers. It said that the TLK train, still 'parked' on the platform, would leave to Kraków in a few minutes. And so, once again, the crowd squeezed back to the platform, and, after another 15 minutes, we left to Kraków, reaching the city's railway station 3.5 hours later than expected.

All of the above, however, is not reason enough for me to sit down and write this quick article. In other words, I'm not writing it to complain, whine or criticise anyone or anything. Quite to the contrary, in fact. Yesterday evening something truly remarkable happened, something that I though only happens at Christmas, under very specific circumstances. As we were sitting in the restaurant car of the original train, stuck in the middle of nowhere, listening to successive announcements, which kept postponing the hour of our 'rescue', I looked around and saw my fellow 'compatriots' smile, burst out laughing at times, and, above all, showing gestures of mutual kindness to one another, patiently waiting for some good news. After our rescue train finally arrived, and we proceeded to switch trains, men were quick to help women with luggage and 'boarding', the young assisted their elders in climbing the ridiculously high stairs of the other train. Just about everyone was friendly and supportive of one another...smiling and turning the whole - otherwise quite surreal situation - into a bit of an exotic, out-of-the-ordinary late-night adventure.

Glass half full

That evening, I met some really interesting people and had some great conversations. I also bumped into friends and colleagues I haven't seen in weeks and months. The whole situation could easily have been seen by many as marred by bad luck in its purest form. Despite the high probability of people's individual plans, unfinished chores and ambitions for that evening being wasted, due to some kind of force majeure, otherwise known as #PKP, many an unexpected smile exchanged between perfect strangers made the whole experience so much better!

And so, to bring this argument back to where it's relevant to #communication and #bodylanguage: every now and then, all of us end up in a situation like this, in one form or another. This is when we have a choice: to be grumpy and start making everyone's life miserable, if only by exuding negative energy to satisfy our frustration and (possibly!) relief stress, or [OPTION 2] turn the whole situation into a joke, smile and demonstrate through simple acts of kindness that there really are BIGGER PROBLEMS ON THIS PLANET than 200 passengers stuck for 3 hours during a PKP-directed, logistics and communication mayhem. And yes, many of us had other plans that evening and some of us had important job deadlines to meet, which didn't make the whole experience any easier. But it was worth remembering, nevertheless, that none of the people on board of that train was at fault and unloading you stress on them would not only be illogical but also simply unfair. Lesson learned.

And here's a little video to close the argument :)


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