All of the good pictures in this post were probably taken by Hansen Qian. Thanks Hansen.
I landed in Zurich and needed to buy a SIM card to activate my phone and coordinate to meet with friends in the downtown area. So I went to the phone store and asked, “May I please have your least expensive SIM card?” They responded, “I’m sorry we are sold out of SIM cards.” Now, you have to understand that the SIM card is what makes a phone a phone and not just an MP3 player. It’s what allows it to call or go on the internet. It’s the phone number – it’s the service. And they were out of it.
No matter. There were two more phone shops in the airport. So I went to the next one. “Hi, I was wondering if I could buy your least expensive SIM card?” “I’m sorry.” He was having difficulties with my English, so I opened my phone and pointed to the empty SIM card slot. He understood and replied, “We are sold out.” I grumble and walk out.
One store left. I go up and ask the same question expecting the same answer. They go, “I would be happy to help you with that sir.” We hash out a couple of the details and she goes to her computer to process it. “I’m sorry sir [honestly I can’t even at this point]. Our system is down.” Now let’s be very clear. This is a phone company and its communication systems were down. For the other two, they were phone companies and were out of SIM cards, which make phones function. All three stores were open.
May I present to you the original version of this skit, presented to you by Monty Python:
Also, you might ask why I don’t just use the free wifi in the airport or train stations or stores. Well, all hotspots here require a working phone number so that they can text you the activation code. Checkmate.
Stone Age Coordination
Because of this SIM card debacle in the previous section, I was now without a phone or wifi and had no obvious way to meet up with 4 other people in downtown Zurich, where I was supposed to meet up with them in 30 minutes. Where exactly? You know, in Zurich. Specific. It felt like one of those online games where you try to escape the room and you have to solve every puzzle exactly right in the right order.
So, first, I was able to get wifi on my computer (but not my phone) in the airport through a bit of preplanning and downloading that I had done (and needed to do) before my arrival in Switzerland. Second, I got in touch with the others (Hansen, Elizabeth, Kiran, Charlotte) via facebook but none of them or I really knew anything about Zurich. So they chose a place to meet me and sent an extremely zoomed in screen shot of the south side of the main train station on google maps, knowing that I wouldn’t be able to use google maps once I left the airport. I had already pre-downloaded a searchable map of Zurich previously for my second bit of preplanning and found their screen shot map in the bigger map in a type of high-stakes I Spy. Then I left the airport with nothing more than a time and place and pre-downloaded map. We arrived at that place within 2 minutes of each other – the odds of that happening were about the odds that I would buy a watch in Switzerland. Late edit: I did not buy a watch in Switzerland.
Stone Age Coordination 2
Within 2 hours of joining up with everyone, I got a SIM card and internet and comfort, but all was not yet well. The following evening, I had to pick up Matt from the train station in Thun. My battery was running out but since I am ever so prepared I had an extra battery so I just messaged him where I was waiting and then shut my phone off and changed the battery.
Disaster struck. Apparently, any time you shut off your phone with a pre-paid SIM card, you need to re-type in the activation code that was given to you originally. I did not remember the code, so now my newly SIM-carded phone had returned to the functionality of a brick. I couldn’t use wifi for the same reason as before – you need a working phone. So now I was just waiting outside of the train station blindly while the minutes that Matt was late just started to pile up. I left my car and tried to find someone to log onto facebook on their phone, but Matt arrived at that instant and all was well.