David Erik

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When your phone dies, don’t die with it. Live without it

This is a story from a weekend when I visited Stockholm, long before I moved there and knew anything about the city. It should be mentioned, however, that it could as well happen today. My navigation skills are sparse, so to speak.


I am about to meet my sister who would be at work until five. I’m located on Östermalm. I know that she works somewhere around here, but no exact adress (she was at the time working at one of those phone thingies where you can call and get any information you want). We’re texting, and I’m googling an address. Probably close from where I am, I mean, how many streets can there be on Östermalm, right?

Then, something happens that makes this day a bit more interesting than it normally would. I’m outside, it’s cold, and my phone battery suddenly dies. From 20% to 0. Zero battery, and zero chargers. The last thing I had told my sister was something along the lines of: ”I’m somewhere on…Östermalm?”

But hey, you don’t necessarily view this as a problem. I’m a consultant, after all. And my sister has not yet finished her shift. I have an address. So I begin navigating based on a thing called “road signs”. It’s some new thing, where they apparently write the names of the roads on signs. In case anyone’s battery dies, I assume. Good move. I’m also old enough to remember that all even house numbers are one one side of the road, and all odd ones are on the other. Just fascinating what you can learn from a few minutes of technological freedom.

I’m closing in to the address, and I am starting to be skeptical to the validity of the data since there are mostly dwelling houses here. My suspicion is correct. No office here. And since I most likely walked out of Stockholm by now because of my high speed road sign navigation walk, nothing else is here either. I’ll have to turn around.

I locate a Seven-Eleven. Perfect. Store people, they are always lovely to interact with, I think, somewhat naive. Time to try out the service-mindness of the bored girl behind the counter (I wish that I could tell you that she was chewing gum aggressively, to add to the image, but unfortunately she didn’t). The store is practically empty.

I feel the sudden need to be “fun”. Like I sometimes do. And never works out the way I plan. But I want to make her smile, so I walk over to the counter with a big smile.

Her: “Hello.”
Me: “Hi! I’m totally lost!” (insert super large smile here)
Her: “…and?”

She totally does not realize the fun aspect of being able to say such a sentence and kind of mean it when one is old enough to be counted as a grownup. And sure, it might have been funnier in my head. But I am pretty sure she could have acted nicer than she did, independent of how fun or not fun my almost-joke was.

In addition, she did not know where the office I was looking for was located. And that might be logical, considering the size of the city and the size of the company. But there was no phone to borrow. And no charger. Overall, there was nothing. Most likely, she wouldn’t even let me but something if I wished to.

I wanted to say something like that I probably could charge my phone on the great connection that we had established. But I’m Swedish after all, so instead I thanked her so VERY much for her help or something. Probably said “goodbye” at least three times as well. No matter what, I’m raised to be nice to people, even when they are not particularly nice to me. And if this gives me a page in her “funny” self-published book regarding strange customers she met at work, so be it.

Back to square one, in the cold, outside Seven-Eleven. Randomly walking towards a small food store.

If anything, I’m stubborn. I’ve learned from Betner (a swedish comedian) that once you create a joke, you stick with it all the way, no matter how bad it turns out to be. This he mentions in the context of being in the middle of a fifteen minute breakdown of how all the american presidents could be charged for crimes against humanity - in chronological order since they begun having a president. Long sidenote, that. Moving on.

The guy in the food store reacts appropriately to my icebreaking opening about how I’m totally lost. Laughs a polite amount and everything. He also googles and finds out another address to the office I’m heading for. Optimism is everywhere!

Out again. Kind of in a hurry. My syster’s work shift is ending any minute - and her leaving the office before I get there would be problematic to say the least. (Actually, I have no idea what time it is since my phone is also my watch.)

Arrives there in light speed. Same thing. Dwelling houses. No office.

Hm. Problematic situation. To go back to the food-store-guy-with-a-phone seems a bit tedious, and kind of cheating to be honest. I’ve already played the card that was his smartphone, so to speak. So I drop into the first open door I can find, which is a small, local café.

Same opening. The woman, with origins in eastern Europe, loves it. This is somewhat like standup, after all. Practice is required.

After I explain my situation, the woman nods and hands me a phone…book.
Phone book?! Are we still making phone books? Absurd. I’ve been teleported 200 years back in time.

Anyway. At least it’s this year’s edition. I politely flip some pages. How do I use a thing like this? It’s divided into different industries? What industry does a company whose business plan consists of giving people information over the phone belong to? Five points for the right answer. Most likely they are not paying to appear in the phone book - since they also work as a interactive phone book, it would be kind of ironic.

The time is most likely way past five by now. It’s time to use a lifeline: actually calling my sister. This is problematic because of two reasons:

  • My phone is dead.
  • I have no idea what my sister’s phone number is.

I mean, come on. Who memorizes phone numbers nowadays. This doesn’t make me an bad person or anything. Calm down.

I do, however, know the number to her work. And yes, I could borrow a phone and call there. But it is dangerously expensive, and since I do not have any cash on me, calling there does not seem very nice. Especially since I suspect they won’t admit to my sister working there due to privacy reasons or similar - I’ve heard a lot of all the crazy people calling such phone lines.

I do borrow a landline phone, however, with the comical instruction not to call the actual company phone line - I guess I am not the only one seeing ahead how it would not work out.

Now I’ll have to resort to the few phone numbers I know by memory. Which is, in order:

  • Dad’s cell. Given first place. Doesn’t pick up, however. Strange. Always picks up. This could have something to do with the fact that I am calling from an unknown Stockholm number a friday night.
  • Viktor’s cell. Close friend of mine. Strange, really, that I know this by heart - once we had cell phones we also had the option to store numbers in our phones which made knowing numbers useless. Viktor does not pick up. I am staring to believe that the phone I’ve borrowed is broken. It sounds weird and take long, silent pauses before the beeps start playing.
  • Our landline at home. This time my mother picks up, even though I am calling from an unknown Stockholm number a friday night. And I suddenly don’t know what to feel about the fact that my parents still haven’t given in for my lobbying of getting rid of the “ancient” landline number that “no one ever uses anymore”. If they had done that, I would have been out of numbers by now (apart from landline number to Anton’s childhood home, Viktor’s childhood home, and Peter’s dad’s cell - all great showoff numbers when having late night nostalgic discussions, but most likely not particularly useful in my current situation).

Technical limitation number four (five? six? lost count) now hits me - when my mother tells me the number to my sister. I cannot use my favorite take-notes-app on my phone, and have to resort to remember the number - maybe not rocket science, but still a source of error. Because when I hang up and hurry up to punch in all the numbers, no one picks up on the other side.

It takes three tries before my sister answers her phone and by then my belief in my own ability to memorize has fallen through the floor. Apparently she has now just left the area of the city that we both were in, and, to quote almost exactly, was “together with her colleagues trying to come up with a plan how to find someone that was unreachable and lost somewhere in Stockholm”. Like it was ME that had left Östermalm. Huh.

I say thank you for borrowing the phone, buy a for me new soda called Vitamin Well (with the taste of ’Everyday’, also known as ’Apple’), and sit down in the café, waiting for my sister. Sitting alone, glass in hand, in an empty and silent café, that actually had closed down by now, and looking out over a dark Sturegatan. No idea what the time was. No possibility to Instagram this moment. I could basically only just sit there. It was beautiful.


My father told my later that he really did not pick up the phone due to the unknown Stockholm number. But the most interesting part here is that he, a few minutes after my call, receives a text message from a café. In Stockholm. With a promotion code for a discount. This is really weird. How is it possible? Is it legal? It seems like some kind of evil phone magic.

And speaking of my father, he had a saying of sorts, that are applicable to many things in life. It goes, basically, “Did you LEARN anything?”

And I can, as always, nod and say that, yes, yes I did. You could summarize it to the following things:

  • Drink Witamin Well! Lovely non-carbonated beverage.
  • Never shop at Seven-Eleven.
  • If a phone sounds strange, it is most likely dark magic in play.

And most importantly:
Expose yourself to kind and friendly risks when you can.
Live dangerously - leave your charger at home.