It was 11:54 p.m. on New Year’s Eve when people started screaming at me to put the big ball drop in Time Square on my TV. It’s sort of the “you had one job” of throwing a New Year’s party, and I had completely forgotten about it. Many gin and tonics deep, I made my way over to the TV and tried to search the relevant parts of my brain for the information necessary to complete the task. That’s when I remembered: my Switch charger was busted, so we couldn’t watch TV.
Why was I thinking about my Switch charger in that moment, as more and more people began demanding, at increasing decibels, to see the ageless grin of Ryan Seacrest? Why, approximately seven minutes later, had I utterly failed to provide it, forcing us instead to stare at the back of Twitch streamer Ninja’s rose-dipped locks as he kissed all the drunken groupies in his makeshift Time Square studio as our first communal action of 2019?
The details that led up to and beyond this monumental fail are so banal and were, at the time, so seemingly inconsequential that I’ve had a hard time shaking them from my thoughts. The way such small decisions eventually cascaded out to constrain my free will in meaningful ways over the proceeding 24 hours has been a crash course in serendipity’s inverse.
It started the morning of New Year’s Eve, my birthday, when my partner woke me up in bed with coffee, which is a thing I’ve always wanted because I’m not a morning person and also usually the one who has to make the coffee in the morning. We went out to breakfast, and I took my coffee in the car with me. I’m always in a hurry, despite never liking to be in a hurry. Maybe that’s why I brought the mug into the car instead of putting the coffee in my thermos. Maybe that’s why I refused to take the extra couple of minutes to clean out my drink holders of the pens, coins, Lara Bar wrappers and old receipts preventing me from resting my cup there. For certain, I know that’s why, after arriving at breakfast, I decided to leave my half finished cup of coffee resting on the center console while we went to go eat rather than do literally anything else with it.
I told myself this was a terrible idea but I also told myself that because it was a terrible idea I would remember that I’d done it.
When we returned to the car 45 minutes later I didn’t remember. My elbow swung into the mug, knocking coffee all down the side of my coat and my phone, which was inside the pocket. It took a few minutes before the phone lost its charge and powered off. I told myself maybe it was not the coffee that caused it but having left my phone in the car in the cold all night, which is a thing I occasionally do.
Enter the USB-C power adapter for my Switch. I wanted to charge my phone so I could look for incoming texts because it was 1) my birthday and 2) I was throwing a party that night. In the year and two months I’ve owned my phone I have always used the Switch’s charging cord to do this, except when I’m in my car, in which case I use the USB-C cable that came with the Switch Pro Controller. I don’t even know where my phone’s charger is, or if I ever even had one.
My laziness in ever resolving this issue has a silver lining: one less charger in my bag on my long commutes. Just my phone, my Switch, and Nintendo’s official Switch AC power cord. I think this is what they call a lifehack. More accurately, the sort of lifehack that seems great at first but eventually screws you over.
Screwed over how? I flunked out of Engineering school, and the properties of electricity are magic to me, but apparently when I plugged my phone in it overloaded the Switch charger. My phone got some juice back, momentarily turned back on, then powered back off saying it had overheated. The charger, meanwhile, stopped doing anything. I put both of them in a jar of rice because, like I said, electricity is magic to me and I hear when it gets wet you can fix it with rice.
12 hours later everyone at my house was screaming at me to put the ball dropping in Times Square on my TV, but I’d canceled my cable months ago and now use Hulu Live on the Switch exclusively. My Switch wouldn’t export to the TV, though. The charger still wasn’t working. I panicked. I tried other USB-C chargers, but the Switch gave me error messages.
Since I couldn’t hook up the Switch I tried downloading Hulu to my Xbox One but couldn’t remember my password because it was 11:56 p.m. on New Year’s Eve.
I tried to find my laptop to hook it up to my TV, but it only has a HDMI mini port and I don’t have an HDMI mini cable.
Instead I raced to turn on my PS4 and loaded up Twitch. Ninja was supposed to be streaming New Year’s. I thought I was a hero. I waited for the video to buffer. But New Year’s had already happened a minute ago. Having missed the countdown, my friends did three more countdowns. Everyone was very confused. Someone yelled at me to turn off Twitch chat.
I still think about all of the things I could have done differently. I could have put my phone in my left pocket instead of my right. I could have poured the leftover coffee onto the street. I could have tried drying out my phone before charging it. I could have never mentioned to my loving partner how much I always wanted to drink coffee in bed. On no other morning in the history of us going out for breakfast have we ever made coffee beforehand.
There could be a hundred morals to this story, including that life is a precarious arrangement of random chance accidents whose resulting design is too overwhelming to interpret or make sense of. In either case, two Switch chargers should be showing up on my doorstep sometime this weekend.