As you may know, Chicago has the largest population of people of Polish heritage, outside of Warsaw. This makes the city a good place to live if you happen, as I do, to like kishka, kielbasa and pirogues. The smells that emanate from the various Polish grocery stores are noticeable a city block away. What a treat for one’s olfactory senses.
And the neighborhoods in which people of Polish descent live are amazingly clean and crime free. Perhaps that is because the residents make the effort to keep them that way. On any given Saturday, taking a drive down the side streets that radiate from Milwaukee Avenue, the heart of the Polish community’s business district, you can see diminutive old Polish ladies on their hands and knees, scrubbing the sidewalks in front of their little bungalow homes.
Of course, having such a large ethnic community it is not surprising that people arrived at stereotypes for this group of people and began constructing jokes about them. One of those stereotypes concerned itself with the intelligence level of members of the Polish community – which the joke creators determined was rather low. And they made up their stories accordingly.
( It was not my experience in my dealings with the many people of Polish extraction whom I knew that there was any truth to this presumption).
But here’s a typical Polish, or in the parlance of Chicago, “Pollack” joke:
“Why did the Polish dog have a flat head?”
“Because he kept chasing parked cars.”
Of course, the dog in this two-liner is a canine and is not to be confused with a “Polish” that comes on a bun. And if you are wondering, ordering a wiener or hot dog, the correct pronunciation and spelling is “dawg”.
If you should be exceptionally gauche and were to order a Polish dawg, which is both an oxymoron and a verbal abomination, you will undoubtedly be confined to the nethermost place in Hell after your demise and fed a diet of nothing other than Campbell’s Cream of Tomato soup through all eternity. This would be a just and fitting punishment.
Now the reason that I thought of this old canard about the Polish dog was that this morning on my way with Gracie to the dog park, I was behind a man driving a late model car. I happened to notice that his passenger brake light had burned out.
As it happened, we both were going to make a left turn at the same street and there were two lanes assigned for that purpose. We were stopped at a rather long light and both of our windows were rolled down as at 6:15 a.m. it was only about 78 degrees outside. (We had a rather extensive thunderstorm last night which cooled things off considerably).
As we were waiting for the left turn arrow, I said to him, “Excuse me sir – I don’t know if you’re aware of it but your passenger side brake light is out.”
Gracie pushed her head out of the rear window to see if there were any dogs in the other car whose acquaintance she might make.
The man (whom I took to be in his mid to late 40’s) responded, “Yeah, so what’s it to ya?”
I had expected a response more along the lines of, “I didn’t know that. Thanks for telling me,” so this took me by surprise.
Before I had an opportunity to formulate and offer a response, the light changed and we both made our turns.
It’s an interesting society in which we live. Fortunately or unfortunately I was raised to assist others when the opportunity presents itself – and I thought I was doing this guy a minor service by pointing out his car’s problem. But apparently he felt that this was some sort of intrusion into his affairs.
The habit is so ingrained in me after so many years, that I guess, like the flat-headed Polish dog, I’m going to keep chasing parked cars. Or maybe it was people like me whom Einstein observed when he formulated his definition of Insanity: “Doing the same thing over and over and expecting to get a different result.”
So I guess there are a couple of things you should take away from this story:
1) Never order a Polish dawg unless you’re really fond of Campbell’s Cream of Tomato soup;
2) Be a nice person and you’ll get your reward;
3) You better check your own brake lights because the next time I see that one of them has burned out I might not bother to mention it to you. (Nah, I will).