Mandy Nolan’s Soap Box: Charged about chargers?


There is a question that we used to ask ourselves to work out what was most important in life: If you had two minutes to get out of your house, what would you grab? Everyone used to say ‘the photo album’. But who has one of those cumbersome things any more? Our photo albums are on our iCloud and apparently virtual formations of data don’t catch fire or suffer water damage.

I thought about it the other day and I came up with ‘All the chargers’. I don’t mean white horses that were left out the front from the continual appearance of dashing men trying to rescue me from myself; I mean those fricking things you plug in the wall that power your devices that keep you in touch with your fricking iCloud. How can there be so many chargers?

Chargers for my iPhone, for my laptop, for my iPod, for the iPad, for my camera. And that’s just me. I have five children. Between them they have a minimum of three chargeable devices. So counting my load, and John’s and the kids, there should be approximately 30 chargers in the house. It would be far too economically rational to make one universal device. No, each charger has a slightly different sized plug-in. They don’t stay with their device. They move. They become unrecognisable. On every desk they sit curled in clumps. They collect in baskets, under beds, in handbags, some are even left dangling in power points. The most often asked question in our house is ‘Who took my charger?’ It is never a polite question. It could be asked more delicately, perhaps phrased ‘Has anyone seen my charger?’ But no. It is always an accusation of outright theft. A sense of panic that cherished device will lose power and thus its owner will disconnect from their digital raison d’etre.

And yes, other people do take chargers. They take them back to their place. They pretend they didn’t mean to but they never bring them back. They never rock up to your house and say ‘last time I was at your house I accidentally mistook your charger for mine and took it’ – then return it. No. They never mention it again. They keep it and tell themselves it was always theirs in the first place.

You say ‘did you accidentally take my charger?’ They always say ‘No. I only have mine.’ I know they’re lying because that’s what I do when I visit people. Then there’s the more direct approach for charger abductors: ‘Do you have an iPhone 6 charger I could borrow?’ ‘Borrow’ is actually not used correctly here, but ‘Do you have an iPhone 6 Charger I could use and never give back?’ will elicit a negative response.

When people ask that questions they know the answer. Of course you do. Everyone has an iPhone 6 charger. It’s their most prized possession. It seems unreasonable not to lend it to someone. After all its just an electrical power cord. The house goes quiet. We can’t give the real answer. ‘Yes, we do, but no one wants to give it to you.’ We know what will happen to it. It will not come back. And how can you prove that one white cord’s ownership over another? Who wants to be the petty control freak bitching about someone taking their iPhone charger?

It happened the other night. The request seemed innocent enough. A friend who was driving me to a gig said, ‘Oh, could I borrow your iPhone cord to charge my phone in the car?’ I couldn’t really say no. They were driving me to work after all. So I said to John, ‘Oh, can I take your cord?’ His face goes ashen. ‘No.’ ‘ But they’re all the same.’ He starts to sweat. His hands are shaking.

‘But I need mine. It’s the only one I’ve got. Give him yours.’ So I do. And at the end of the night my friend drives off with it. I realise he’s still got it the moment the car leaves the street and it occurs to me – I have been set up. This whole scenario was a scam to get my iPhone charger. The gig, the lift, the ‘I’ve got to get up early tomorrow’ was all part of the grift. So now I don’t have an iPhone charger. Hmm, but John does. If I sneak in there now before he wakes up and take it…

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