It’s going to be about opening doors.
It started with our landing in Warsaw…
No, wait. Scratch that!
It started with our boarding of the trans-Atlantic flight — that carried us to Vienna — and which I nearly missed due to a row of fuck-ups on behalf the domestic airline that took me to D.C. One thing that I must say (in the domestic airline’s defense) is that the stewart who announced our landing did make a Christmas wish over the radio: He asked that every soul on that plane allowed those of us, in danger of missing our flights, pass through the doors first.
“Yeah, right!” I thought. “Like that’s gonna happen!”
My point exactly: A family of South Koreans flying in first class were the first to get out of their seats and block our way. And then, a miracle! They sat. Back. Down. And the entire plane remained seated, and we were given a priority.
Well, I’ll be damned: Humanity!
I started running, checked the schedule of international departures on the go and followed the arrows to my gate.
“Say what?! I have to catch a train?! Fuck me!”
With ten minutes before the plane’s departure, I was still running alongside the moving walkway — and I was actually faster than the mellow well-dressed passengers, much better suited for this spotless place.
“Wien?” a flight attendant with a German accent intercepted me.
“YES! WHERE?!” I was short of breath and seemingly out of my good manners.
“This way. We have been waiting for you, m’am.”
Well, I’ll be damned: What dignity!
A couple of other flight attendants who checked my boarding pass were equally as chill. Effortlessly, I passed through a pair of sliding doors and entered possibly the biggest aircraft I’ve ever seen. It was so giant that upon our landing (forgive the shortcut past the 9-hour flight here), TWO sets of exits opened to let us out. And it was one of those aircrafts that involved stairs leading down to the foreign soil; and then, THREE shuttles — waiting to deliver us to the Passport Check Point. So old-school!
After the silent man who stamped my visa page, there would be another security check, more doorless doorways and then another boarding, in the same old-school manner. This time, it would involve ONE shuttle and ONE set of doors.
“Dzien dobry!” the flight attendants cooed at me at the entrance of a seemingly brand new plane. They all had those gorgeous Polish noses, mellow faces and striking eyes.
Is this a European thing? By now, I began to wonder. This dignity, this slower manner that allowed for a well thought-out response: Was this what other travelers insisted I experienced — by going to Europe?
And it would indeed turn out to be the pattern in this city: In Warsaw’s every neighborhood, I would be treated with respect albeit some barely noticeable curiosity. The women here — always so gorgeous, I would gladly subscribe to the world’s conviction that there were no equals to them, anywhere! — would look at me with some off-kilter fascination. They wouldn’t be unkind at all, but they seemed to know I was one odd bird: Sort of from around here — but not really. Someone who understood them but, except for my communication via gentle manners I’d acquired with forgiveness, could barely respond.
Some men would be attracted but never spoke to me. Most studied me modestly and never interfered. One young and pretty creature stood aside, dumbfounded, and let me pass him. A few turned heads — but never spoke up. And no man would ever disrespect the woman he was with by being demonstrative with his curiosity at me.
Well, I’ll be damned: Respect!
The doors to my cabdriver’s car (he looked so very much like my father): Those doors just wouldn’t open. And I had tried a couple of them. My father’s kind lookalike, despite being in the midst of shuffling my bags, ran to assist me. He would attempt to open those doors upon my final stop, as well; but I was too American in my capabilities to wait for him.
The doors leading to the concierge office were impossible to locate. And only after going down a dodgy alley, with multicolored graffiti and smoking teenagers, did I finally locate the back door. (The only woman in that group — gorgeous and not easily impressed — squinted her eyes at me.)
I yanked the door. No luck. Embarrassed to look back at the hip smokers, by now struck with silence, I buzzed the first key on the intercom. Thankfully, someone chirped on the other end, and I was allowed to ascend.
The doors to our rented apartment required TWO sets of alarms and THREE sets of keys. I waved and wiggled the keychain with my electronic pass in front of the red-lit eye for nearly five minutes before an older woman — again, gorgeous, mellow and smiling — quietly demonstrated how to do it. The old fashioned key, like something out of my childhood’s fairytale, required some maneuvering in the lock. Finally, I entered the spartan place that would become my home, for this week.
And this story about my random visit of Poland — where, after sixteen years, I would reunite with dad — would continue to be about doors: The tubular, time-machine like doors of the shower; the heavy doors of every restaurant whose signs I could not decipher; the detailed doors of cozy cafes that would support my jet lag with their coffee; the wooden doors along the narrow cobble streets behind which I secretly wished to live (so that I could be closer — to dad); and the eventual folding doors of that ONE bus meant to bring my old man here —
I swear: I’d conquer so many more doors — and miles — to get to you, today!