Dziwak w Ameryce / Weird in America

Kilka dni temu w supermarkecie zdarzyło się coś, co naprawdę mnie zraniło. Byłem na zakupach z moją 9-letnią wnuczką, która nosi takie samo nazwisko jak ja, kiedy kasjerka zapytała ją, jak się nazywa. Kiedy moja wnuczka odpowiedziała, że nazywa się Lucy Guzlowski, kasjerka wybuchnęła śmiechem. Moja wnuczka to jeszcze dziecko i nie wzięła tego do siebie.
Ja wziąłem i poczułem się urażony, ale nic z tym nie zrobiłem, nie odezwałem się. Takie rzeczy przytrafiają mi się od kiedy w 1951 roku przyjechałem do Ameryki jako imigrant. Przez te lata nauczyłem się siedzieć cicho, kiedy ktoś zaczyna robić aferę z wymową mojego nazwiska. Ale nie zawsze milczę.
To, co przytrafiło się mojej wnuczce Lucy w supermarkecie kilka dni temu, przypomniało mi o pewnym zdarzeniu, które miało miejsce 12 lat temu, kiedy mieszkałem w miejscowości Valdosta, w Georgii. Mieszkaliśmy tam już od dłuższego czasu, a w naszym sąsiedztwie działała pralnia chemiczna, z której usług korzystałem od kilku lat. To była porządna pralnia, ubrania czyścili wyśmienicie i niedrogo.
Tyle że za każdym razem, kiedy oddawałem do czyszczenia górę brudnych ubrań, miała miejsce ta dziwna sytuacja. Za każdym razem kładłem ubrania na ladzie, a właścicielka odbierała zamówienie i pytała o moje nazwisko. Kiedy odpowiadałem, za każdym razem wybuchała śmiechem i pytała: „Skąd się biorą takie nazwiska?”. Kiedy tłumaczyłem, że Guzlowski to polskie nazwisko, znowu wybuchała śmiechem, kręciła głową i powtarzała: „Ojojoj”. To powtarzało się przez kilka lat, aż do ostatniego razu.
Tego dnia właścicielka pralni zapytała mnie znowu, co to za nazwisko ten „Guzlowski”. Odpowiedziałem, że polskie i dodałem: „Nigdy już nie przyjdę do tej pralni”. Właścicielka nie przeprosiła, nie zapytała „O co panu chodzi?” ani nie poprosiła żebym sobie nie szedł. Po prostu stała i patrzyła na mnie, jakby kompletnie nie miała pojęcia o co mi chodzi, a ja zebrałem z blatu moje pranie i wyszedłem z jej pralni.
Przypomniałem sobie to zdarzenie wczoraj, kiedy czekałem na coroczne badanie w gabinecie u mojego kardiologa. Mój lekarz akurat przeprowadzał tego dnia operację, więc badała mnie lekarka, której nigdy wcześniej nie spotkałem. Nazywała się Trazee. Doktor Trazee. Przeczytałem jej nazwisko na identyfikatorze i zapytałem, jak powinienem je wymawiać. Uśmiechnęła się i odpowiedziała, że rymuje się z „crazy” (szalony).
Chciałbym, żeby Guzlowski rymowało się z „crazy”. Chciałbym mieć gotową zabawną odpowiedź dla tych wszystkich ludzi, którzy śmieją się z mojego nazwiska.

fot.John Z. Guzlowski/Facebook

Weird in America

Something happened a couple days ago at the supermarket that really hurt me.

I was shopping with my 9-year-old granddaughter who has the same last name I do, and a clerk asked her what her name is.

When my granddaughter said she was Lucy Guzlowski, the clerk started laughing at her last name.

My granddaughter is just a kid and didn’t take offense.

I took offense, of course, but I didn’t do much, didn’t say anything. This kind of stuff has been happening to me since I came to America as an immigrant in 1951. What I’ve learned is to keep my mouth shut when somebody starts making a big deal of how my name is pronounced.

But I don’t always keep my mouth shut.

This thing that happened with my granddaughter Lucy in the supermarket here reminded me of something that happened about 12 years ago when I was living in Valdosta, Georgia.

We had been living there for a while, and there was a dry cleaner in the neighborhood that I had used for years and years. It was a good dry cleaner, the work they did was excellent and the prices were perfect.

But something odd would happen very time I’d go in with a batch of clothes that needed dry cleaning.

Every time, I would put the clothes on the counter, and the clerk would take the order and ask me for my last name. Every time, I would tell her, and she would start laughing and say with a big smile on her fact, “What kind of name is that?”

And every time I would say the same thing, “It’s Polish,” and she would just laugh some more and shake her head and say, “My, my, my.”

It was like that every time for years until the last time.

When she asked me what kind of name Guzlowski was, I said, “It’s Polish,” but this time I added, “I am never coming back to your dry cleaner.”

She didn’t apologize or say, “What do you mean?” or “Don’t go, please.” She just looked at me like she had no idea what I was talking about as I gathered my laundry together and walked out of her dry-cleaning business.

PS. I was thinking about writing all of this up yesterday while I waited in my cardiologist’s office for my yearly exam. It turned out he was in surgery that day, so I had my appointment with a doctor I had never met before. Her name was Dr. Trazee. I read it on her name tag, and I asked her, “How do you pronounce your last name?” She smiled and said, “It rhymes with crazy.”

I wish “Guzlowski” rhymed with “crazy.”

I’d love to have a funny respond ready for all the folks that like to laugh at my last name.

John Guzlowski

amerykański pisarz i poeta polskiego pochodzenia. Publikował w wielu pismach literackich, zarówno w USA, jak i za granicą, m.in. w „Writer’s Almanac”, „Akcent”, „Ontario Review” i „North American Review”. Jego wiersze i eseje opisujące przeżycia jego rodziców – robotników przymusowych w nazistowskich Niemczech oraz uchodźców wojennych, którzy emigrowali do Chicago – ukazały się we wspomnieniowym tomie pt. „Echoes of Tattered Tongues”. W 2017 roku książka ta zdobyła nagrodę poetycką im. Benjamina Franklina oraz nagrodę literacką Erica Hoffera, za najbardziej prowokującą do myślenia książkę roku. Jest również autorem dwóch powieści kryminalnych o detektywie Hanku Purcellu oraz powieści wojennej pt. „Road of Bones”. John Guzlowski jest emerytowanym profesorem Eastern Illinois University.

John Guzlowski’s writing has been featured in Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac, Akcent, Ontario Review, North American Review, and other journals here and abroad.  His poems and personal essays about his Polish parents’ experiences as slave laborers in Nazi Germany and refugees in Chicago appear in his memoir Echoes of Tattered Tongues.  Echoes received the 2017 Benjamin Franklin Poetry Award and the Eric Hoffer Foundation’s Montaigne Award for most thought-provoking book of the year.  He is also the author of two Hank Purcell mysteries and the war novel Road of Bones.  Guzlowski is a Professor Emeritus at Eastern Illinois University.

Categories: Guzlowski

Comments

  1. zhort
    zhort 13 maja, 2019, 17:39

    i only come here for the Guzlowski stuff. currently my favorite writer and these entries are always interesting and sometimes funny in a John Guzlowski-funny kind of way. if you haven’t read the one about the dead deer, i recommend it.

    Reply this comment
  2. Anonim
    Anonim 13 maja, 2019, 21:53

    I want answers…love this cliffhanger piece….

    Reply this comment
  3. Anonim
    Anonim 13 maja, 2019, 23:42

    I get asked how my name is pronounced all the time.
    I tell them it’s easy. Pooch 🐕 cow 🐄 ski 🎿.
    My daughter in law was checking into a hotel. When the clerk saw her name, she said “what kind of f_____d up name is that? I’ve seen a lot of crazy names, but this is the worst !”

    Reply this comment
  4. sue
    sue 14 maja, 2019, 05:26

    Thanks John. Well put. And how extraordinarily ill-mannered some people can be. It makes me wonder what sort of homes…

    Reply this comment
    • Anonim
      Anonim 14 maja, 2019, 12:43

      I grew up with having my name mispronounced all the time. I remember my Mom saying Kotowicz K-o-t-o-w-I-c-z well, you say it just like it is spelled ! She left people with their mouth open. I think in the 50-60’s most of us just dealt with it and said nothing, like we were expecting it.

      Reply this comment
  5. Anonim
    Anonim 14 maja, 2019, 05:29

    Never has anyone laughed at Mikulski but all my coworkers in Boston, Massachusetts were disappointed when the found out I wasn’t a McCkusky, a good Irish gal.

    Reply this comment
  6. Anonim
    Anonim 14 maja, 2019, 06:15

    The funny response is how my children survived their last name, we told people it sounded like they were sneezing. I grew up in a very Polish area of Chicago so as a child no issue. By the time I married and moved to the suburbs things changed. Their dad came home from the service with the name „Ski” because they could not say his last name just the ending. Never an easy issue, but humor seems to help everything.

    Reply this comment
  7. Danusha Goska
    Danusha Goska 14 maja, 2019, 06:44

    Excellent

    Reply this comment
  8. Magdalena
    Magdalena 14 maja, 2019, 07:33

    Oh, yes, I’m very familiar with this struggle! Both my first and last name constantly get mispronounced.

    Reply this comment
  9. Anonim
    Anonim 14 maja, 2019, 07:49

    Great article. Thank you

    Reply this comment
  10. Anonim
    Anonim 14 maja, 2019, 09:07

    I enjoy Mr. Guzlowski’s articles. We are Polish Americans with the last name Pokorski. Even the in Buffalo, where we live and there are a lot of us, our name is often mispronounced as Pork owski…. oh well, it happens.

    Reply this comment
  11. Anonim
    Anonim 14 maja, 2019, 09:17

    Sorry to hear that. Never had any other comments than „could you spell it for me, please”. And my maiden name was „Ciolkowska”. How about „Brzeszczykiewicz”?

    Reply this comment
  12. Muzingo
    Muzingo 14 maja, 2019, 11:01

    My last name is Muzingo. Whenever someone new has to read it off a paper it is like they freeze. It really isn’t that hard to pronounce. The name was originally French – I forget what exactly- something with a D and an apostrophe in front, but it was long ago been Americanized. So I help people out when they freeze up trying to pronounce my name. I say, „It is like this – Mew-Zin-go, like music and bingo!” and the people laugh and they pronounce it moustly correctly (ha!) but I am the one really laughing at them.

    Reply this comment
  13. LittleJoe66
    LittleJoe66 14 maja, 2019, 11:52

    Love Mr. Guzlowski’s column. I like to have fun with my last name. Tell people it means „Man who lives in the brick house… on central Ave. with the clotheslines on the back… that go to the garage…”

    Reply this comment
  14. David
    David 14 maja, 2019, 12:18

    John, These are foolish immature people, still emotionally in middle school, that you have encountered who are unlikely to achieve much in life. I’ve been around, but honestly have never experienced such ridicule here, but rather almost always a level of respect – which I always reciprocate – for the heritage whenever the subject arises prompted by my family name. Still, when asked randomly about the „nationality” of the name, I often initially answer „American, just like yours.”

    Reply this comment
  15. Anonim
    Anonim 14 maja, 2019, 14:50

    Like many others with a Polish name, I could relate to this article. It helps me understand why so many immigrants changed their last name by choice (not counting those whose name was changed without their consent at Ellis Island). But it does make me wonder if they had kept their real name and not dropped the „ski” or the „witz” or however it was originally if that would made it easier for others to accept today.

    Reply this comment
  16. Anonim
    Anonim 14 maja, 2019, 16:15

    Pacosz is never pronounced properly. For years I just smiled and nodded. Ms. Pickles. Pecos Bill. These were kids so who could blame them. Then something happened and I am not sure when or why but when people stumbled over my surname I would smile and pronounce it just like it would be Pecos, so everyone was comfortable, right? But then I’d add, „That isn’t how it is pronounced but the „c” doesn’t exist in English.” I’d say my surname with that Polish „c” and often a whole group would be trying to say it properly, frustrated that they couldn’t seem to get it right. Only Mr. Jonas Segal at Cass Technical High School in Detroit said it absolutely right every time. Pah – kosh, with the accent on the second syllable That isn’t the reason he was my favorite teacher but it helped. The name came over with my paternal grandfather and documents indicate it was spelled Paczos until it wasn’t. Someone said it probably happened in the Leadwood, Missouri area mines where Antoni was a shoveler. His pay chit read Pacosz and so it stuck. I was so proud of myself when I divorced my first husband and asked the court for my maiden name back. My second husband never questioned why I would want such a difficult name in the difficult places of the south.

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  17. Christina Pacosz
    Christina Pacosz 14 maja, 2019, 16:20

    P.S. My mother would spell the name in phone conversations, P as in Paul, A, C as in Charles, S as in Sam and then for the grand finale, Z as in zebra. I would sit near her imagine the striped beast recognizing us as beings familiar with the unusual. I still use this scheme in my phone conversations. Her maiden name was Kostrzewski.

    Reply this comment
  18. Cally
    Cally 14 maja, 2019, 22:02

    Sorry to hear that, it’s sad that you can’t fix someone else’s rudeness. Her loss really, she lost business and potentially some interesting stories and insight into a world outside her world. My own father changed his last name, due to similar experiences.

    Reply this comment
  19. Easy
    Easy 15 maja, 2019, 02:53

    Have a similar last name to Mr. Guzlowski, and have been in the Chicago area for almost 40 years and no one ever gave me a hard time about it. Not even dry cleaners. Am I alone? Most people after I spell it out, say „easy”. My last name is Geslowski. Ges-low-ski, easy. 🙂

    Reply this comment
    • john guzlowski
      john guzlowski 15 maja, 2019, 12:14

      I guess it’s the difference between living in Chicago and living in little southern towns like Valdosta Georgia and Lynchburg Virginia. Not many Poles or „foreigners” around here. When I lived in Chicago I never heard any kind of stuff about my name.

      Reply this comment
      • john z guzlowski
        john z guzlowski 16 maja, 2019, 18:46

        By the way, I bet we’re related. The old Poles didn’t write much and a lot of them couldn’t spell their own names. My dad was one of them. He was also an orphan. His name may have been Geslowski! And som3body speller it Guzlowski for him. I even saw one document where his name was spelled Guzrowski.

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  20. john z guzlowski
    john z guzlowski 15 maja, 2019, 05:49

    Thank you all for stopping by. I really appreciate it.

    Reply this comment
  21. Casimir
    Casimir 18 maja, 2019, 16:13

    At one of my old jobs, when I had just been hired, a co-worker asked my name, I said „Casimir.” And she laughed and said: „What else can I call you, I’m not calling you that.” Like, what?! Thanks for the article, Professor!

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