The thing about today’s smart devices is that they can be too smart for their own good.
Last Wednesday, for example, I went to collect a delivery at my front door. I’d been expecting a new SIM card, and the network provider told me I’d need to receive it in person, for security purposes.
True enough, the courier needed me to sign for the letter. Cooperative recipient that I was, I stepped outside to do just that.
And my electronic lock, bless its programmatic soul, happily launched into action as soon as the door swung shut behind me.
Other people’s experiences might be different, but when I collect deliveries at the door, the process usually takes 5 seconds, tops. It doesn’t need me to bring my phone. Or my house keys. Or a copy of my flatmates’ mobile numbers, just in case.
Of course, normally, the process doesn’t leave me stranded at 3:30 PM on a quiet workday, gaping at my front door, equipped only with my clothes, house slippers, wallet, and a SIM that would have been infinitely more useful if there was a goddamn phone to put it in.
Like my electronic lock, I was duped by my own programming.
How do you make the most of a bad situation?
I’ve talked about the millennial penchant for optimization before. A waiting period of God knows how many hours is terrible for productivity.
Here are some things that can help an anxious millennial brain pass the time:
1. Walk around the block
Do you know how many small shops are in your area? There could be a lot of gems that you just haven’t found yet.
You might also find something helpful, like an internet café that will let you pull your contacts from the cloud so you can call your flatmates and get home.
Caution: If you live in a developed country, the chances of finding an internet café are next to nil. These countries have iPhone-toting gradeschoolers and 20GB mobile data plans. There aren’t enough people being locked out without their phones to drive demand.
2. Canvass the grocery store for supplies
There’s something calming about the fluorescent lighting and orderly aisles of a grocery store.
But don’t buy anything yet.
You don’t know how long you’ll have to wait, and you want to be able to drop by later without looking like you’re casing the joint.
3. Think about the life choices that brought you to this point
Is this where your thirteen-year-old self thought you’d be?
4. Ask somebody for the time
If you don’t wear a watch, not having your phone with you can leave you unmoored from time itself. The solution is to ask someone else.
In the dead afternoons of a workday, you might have trouble finding somebody. But an apartment block runs on the hard work of maintenance staff. Most of them will be around, and most of them will have phones or watches, which will be more than you can say for yourself at that point. Once you do get an answer, remember that the time won’t be the only thing you need to thank them for.
5. Acquire a new skill set
Just because you’ve been taken out of the rushing river of modern, digital life, doesn’t mean you have to fall behind. There are many skills you can hone even without Google to guide you.
For example, your vocal cords will still function without an internet connection. This could be a good opportunity to rehearse the latest hits and prime yet another aspect of your life to be monetised on the web.
(All sarcasm aside, if you can use the time to check out a nearby gym, join a free class, etc., then by all means. Don’t waste your life any more than you have to.)
6. Actually buy supplies from the grocery store
Once you hit your third visit — and if it’s a workday afternoon, you will — the only way to avoid looking like a creeper is to buy something.
Pick up some water, snacks, maybe some items you needed to buy next week anyway. If the grocery store is open 24 hours, don’t forget to be extra-nice to the cashier. That will help you later, if you need to come back and ask her if you can hang around until your flatmates (hopefully) return in the morning.
7. Contemplate crime
This might seem contradictory after the previous step had you spending money to avoid looking like a creep. But see, you need to be as un-suspicious as possible if you’re going to start planning your climb up to your apartment’s open kitchen window.
Which, after the four- or five-hour mark, you will.
8. Take a break
If you made optimal choices in Step 6, have a Kit-Kat, too.
Not everyone will need to take a nap at this point. If you do, though, just know that it is entirely okay to curl up on the floor by the shoe rack. This is not as undignified an act as your neighbours would have you believe.
9. Commit that crime
Everyone has a different breaking point. Regardless, you will hit yours.
When that happens, always opt to leave the least possible damage on the premises, especially if you’re renting and want some part of your deposit back.
10. Get rescued
At some point, your flatmates will actually return, and you will be saved from any further humiliation at your own hands.
Alternatively, your flatmates will arrive just as you’ve pried open your front window and started trying to poke the electronic lock open with an umbrella. Just remember that all the prior steps will have already stripped you of your dignity, so you won’t lose anything if this happens.