Seven to nine years ago, I commuted from the U.S. to Poland to court my now-wife Gosia, and she did the same in reverse, meeting me by turns in Alaska and Indiana. We were good friends for two years before getting hitched, although I assure you that we both were interested.

I was interested in getting married. She was interested in remaining single.

Nine years later, you see how it turned out?

Although my mother’s father was an orphan Pole who bawled me out in Polish for indiscretions like stampeding his dairy cows while herding them, I learned only enough Polish vocabulary to be dangerous. However, my pronunciation is quite good. I might not give you basic street directions in Polish, but I can pray with you with perfect diction or stand on a street corner in December and sing you Polish Christmas carols without a missed word.

My Polish didn’t get a whole lot better even after I spent a sabbatical semester in Poland. My six years of Latin helped me a lot with Spanish and French, but not one bit with my Polish.

But I have my pride, and when visiting Warsaw, I insisted on barking my own orders for java in coffee shops. Things went well except when a barrister struck up a conversation, and then I’d have to give Gosia a poopy face and cry for help.

“He only knows about 300 Polish words,” she usually told the confused servers.

Gosia worked days as an account manager, and when I wasn’t writing my sabbatical book, I was out getting in trouble due to my poor Polish.

I always took public transportation because Gosia was sure a smalltown guy couldn’t use her car to navigate a metropolis of over three million people, especially when street signs were all Greek — er, Polish — to me. Anyway, public transportation for me at my age was free, and so I didn’t need a bus ticket. Anyone not of age who got caught by authorities without a ticket paid a hefty fine on the spot.

I always sat behind the driver to have more time to translate the street signs, and one day two uniformed men got on the bus and questioned me in rapid-fire Polish. By the time I figured they wanted proof of my age the bus had reached the next stop. So, I got out my wallet and flashed my American driver license. By that time the driver had opened both bus doors and 3/4ths of the passengers zoomed out front and back without detection and a fine. I was the Warsaw hero-of-the-moment, although not to the ticked-off investigators who slammed shut their ticket books and stormed off the bus.

Another time I entered a bus with a cup of coffee and stood with it because the vehicle was crowded with elderly female passengers. The driver slammed the brakes so hard, I nearly lost my cup. He opened a side door and came around from his glass cab and screamed at me in Polish, pointing to a sign I could not decipher.

“Wysiadac!” he screamed, which means “Get Out!” and was what my grandmother yelled when a cat snuck into the house.

His screech was accompanied by scathing words from the Polish elderly passengers who recognized an American criminal on caffeine when they saw one.

Coffee was forbidden because you might spill some on a fellow passenger. Who knew?

In short, I left the bus in shame while the irate driver pointed to the open door.

Speaking of coffee, have you heard that Alaska Airlines announced plans to partner with Stumptown brewers to serve a new blend of coffee that tastes stronger in the air than its previous brand?

Since most of my outbound flights with Alaska Air to Indiana seem to depart between 1:30 a.m. and 7 a.m., I hail this new brew as the perfect way to jumpstart a day’s work on the computer at 35,000 feet.

Previously, at that ungodly hour, my eyes barely opened to half-mast unless flight attendants served me a case of Red Bull. So, thank you, Stumptown, I’m practically dancing in the plane’s aisles over your announcement.

Read more of Hank Nuwer’s columns at the Winchester (Indiana) News-Gazette