Two Smartphones and Public Service

This should not go unmentioned.

On New Year’s Eve, as I was traveling through Sweden to be with my loved ones, I missed my train connection in Eskilstuna. I was supposed to go to Arboga, to catch the long-distance train to Gothenburg, but my limited Swedish caused me to miss one crucial announcement: that only the first car of the train onto which I had just hopped would go to Arboga.

It was 6pm and here I was, suddenly stranded in the middle of the Swedish countryside. A conductor who was more helpful than knowledgable suggested I’d immediately take the next train that went into even remotely the same direction, so I took one that left at 18.09 towards Katrineholm.


And here I fell into the hands of the conductor who is the reason I’m writing this. Probably in his late twenties, he was equipped with not one, but two smartphones, a big Samsung and an iPhone. With these, and a plethora of apps which he kept jockeying between at frantic speed, he used the next 45 minutes to not only fulfill his regular duties as a conductor, but to figure out:

  • There was no way I could intercept my train to Gothenburg via this or any other train. We would be in Katrineholm at 18.57, and there was no connection that could reach Hallsberg by 19.40, which was when my train towards Gothenburg would be passing through there. And there was no other connection to Gothenburg that evening either.
  • A quick check on Google maps revealed that not even driving seemed possible: one hour ten minutes from Katrineholm to Hallsberg — no way to bring this down to the required 40 minutes, or really?
  • He double-checked by actually calling the taxi stand at Katrineholm station. No way. You could do it in one hour, they said, but not 40 minutes.
  • It began to dawn on me that the only way I could be with my loved ones by midnight would be to rent a car. My conductor came to the same conclusion. Within minutes, he had located and contacted not one, but two places that would rent me a car at 7pm on New Year’s Eve, allowing me to compare prices and figure out how long I’d need it.

By the time we reached Katrineholm, my New Year’s Panic had turned into admiration and gratitude. Falling into my New York City habits, I offered him a generous tip, which he so firmly refused that it left absolutely no doubt: This was a public service.

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