Tim Key: The lady told me it was company policy not to allow me to plug my phone in

I've never been good with things like directions

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The Independent Online

It was my first day at work this week and I was really late, but it wasn't my fault, it was the fault of the people in the nearby buildings who could have helped me out but didn't.

Obviously that clunky opening sentence doesn't give the complete picture. But it's the lion's share of it.

The fact is, I didn't know where the hell I was going that morning, and my phone was dead. I needed it nicely charged so I could use it like a map, so I suppose I've got to look at myself on that count. I pay O2 tons of cash each month, and its situations like this where I should be reaping the rewards. I should have been holding my phone out in front of me like a water diviner, and having it guide me to my new employers. But alas, I had rinsed every last drop of juice from it by playing Scrabble on the train, and so it was not to be.

All I had, as I slid through the barriers, was a scrap of paper with a map on it, and, in front of me, a corresponding actual bit of East Croydon.

I've never been good with things like directions. I just can't get into them. Whenever I've had to ask for directions in the past I've found myself tuning out of the answer. Someone kind will be explaining which pub to turn left at and my eyes will gradually cross as I become hypnotised by the waggling of their mouth. I move off, often in the wrong direction, muttering about the whiteness of their teeth or the plumpness of their lips. For a period of about seven years I was never once where I needed to be.

So when Apple finally made a map go on my mobile, I was euphoric. I could leave all that side of things to my phone and free up my brain to do what it does best, think about food and work out how to get it. The problem with this reliance is obvious, however. When your phone goes dead, you're done for. I didn't even have a street number. And that's why I immediately understood what was necessary. I needed to locate a socket to recharge, so I could phone my new boss and have him talk me in. All I needed was for the socket-owners to play ball.

I went into a large building owned by a company called Allianz. There was a lady in there and I explained my predicament and waggled my charger in her face endearingly. She told me it was company policy not to allow me to plug my phone in. I looked as much like a puppy as possible and she repeated herself and I said I didn't understand why that would be part of a company's policy and I left.

Amazingly, the same thing happened in the next building. Same policy; they just seemed to enjoy telling me a bit more. And then it happened again.

By this point I was getting anxious. I kicked maybe three bins out of stress and then rang another bell.

This building was owned by The Diocese of Southwark, so I felt I might reap the benefits of Christian goodwill. And, to their credit, they did look very compassionate when I told them my story, but again, they didn't yield their sockets. Maybe these ladies were more on the admin side. Potentially they had bigger fish to fry. Either way – God bless 'em – they sent me packing and, in doing so, they drove me to theft.

I couldn't risk another knockback so I didn't even bother asking in Pret. I just crouched down low, scuttled in, unplugged a fridge and scooped enough power to phone my new boss.

I was 40 minutes late now. "Ted. I'm lost."

"No worries, son. We haven't started yet. Are you in East Croydon?"

"I am Ted, yes."

"We are right opposite Diocese of Southwark, if you –"

"It's OK, I know where that is," I said, walking back towards the Christians. "I will be with you shortly, Ted."

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