I did it my way: Jacek Szymański


I once went to my younger daughter, Pola’s preschool – it was ‘parents’ day’. The parents who wanted to, could come and tell the children about their work.

Cheeks red with excitement; Pola told me that Julia’s dad extinguishes fires and runs around with a sprinkler. She talked about how Bartek’s mom, is a flight attendant and she’s been everywhere; and how she doesn’t get airplane ears as the plane takes off. Krzysiek’s dad is a conductor of a Pendolino train and transports people around. He goes really fast and his train is so big; and once, he even drove Venezuelan dancers, who sang some songs that made them laugh.

“Dad, come to the preschool and tell us about your work. Please.” — Pola pleaded.

Well, the thought of talking about what I do in the context of all those incredible jobs made me feel very small.

What am I actually doing? Do I tell them about how I’m smashing tomatoes for 5 hours? About multifarious ways to pour water? Pineapples exploding? Would that be of any interest to preschoolers?

Where do my tomatoes fall in comparison to Julia’s dad; who’s saving people’s lives; speeding in his red fire truck with a siren; which inspires respect among other drivers. And Bartek’s mom – beautiful, in her flight attendant’s uniform, well-liked among the passengers, because she brings them warm blankets at night?

“Please, please, please….” – Pola insisted.

I love my job. It’s my hermetic space; which not everyone understands. At the same time, is anyone really interested in how a food commercial is made? I sometimes find it hard to describe what I’m doing to adults, let alone preschoolers. Most of the grown-ups would more likely yawn at the description of my work, rather than ask questions about it. I was once in a cab, and, as it often happens, the driver was telling me his whole life’s story, not omitting anything; even his debts, concessions with the crime-world (non-officially…of course); how many wives he’s had and how ungrateful they all were; how his current wife is the best. Nearing the end of our ride, when Google Maps showed 4 minutes left to reach our destination, he asked:

“And what’s up with you? You’re headed to the airport, so I assume you have some business; right…hehe?”

I told him that I make food commercials and that I’m flying in for work; that I’ll be throwing chocolate in the air and later on it would explode. The driver went silent for a moment and then said:

“But what for?”

I stopped to think for a second, finally realizing that he’s right. But what for?… Nevertheless, the answer came to me on its own.

Simply, because a commercial has to spark interest; it has to be fun; appetizing. I like it when it’s unusual; it has it’s own character. I like when the camera goes around the products; when the fire is lighting up the grill; when the nuts fall into the yogurt in slow-motion,… you know?

“Oh, we’re at the airport – the driver answered. – I think I get what you do, but I just really don’t like commercials… It will be 56 zloty for the ride.”, he said.

What can I tell these kids? I was sitting in front of the classroom, on a bench that barely reached above my ankles. I must have looked ridiculous. Ola’s dad went in before me – he’s a policeman. Tall, strong looking, with a bit of a tummy; in his entire uniform. He smiled at me; but it was more as if I had toothpaste in the corner of my mouth, rather than from being happy to see me. The kids clapped for him. Great – I thought to myself. It’s my turn. On the classroom’s screen, I played some of my commercials and a couple of making-off scenes. As a bonus, I gave the children some cut-up apples, which they relished. In general, it wasn’t that bad, except for a few situations. The boys started getting bored, yawning and looking around, as if looking for an escape route. Two girls had to go pee, and a freckled blonde girl couldn’t look, cause she hates vegetables; so she asked me if I couldn’t play a Disney movie. There were also some questions from very curious boys: “How do you do that? How do you make it explode?.”

Photo: private archive

It’s no surprise that Ola’s dad (the policeman) got a bigger applause. Oh, well… I didn’t wear a uniform, neither did I have a stuck-out tummy; I didn’t wear a cap, nor do I chase criminals. I walked out of the classroom mostly unnoticed. Then suddenly, Pola ran up to me and hugged me tightly; with the most beautiful smile on her face, she said:

“You’re the best dad in the world. Thank you…”

She squeezed me even tighter and proudly ran off to join her friends. They all looked at me. I waved them goodbye and they did the same; with big smiles on their faces. Frankly, those very smiles, were the most beautiful part of that day. How simple it all is… I thought.

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