Olivia Serrill

Short Stories


short stories



A collection of three original short stories I wrote that I made into zines. 


The Berlin Apple Store

A true story

Before I went to Europe for four months I bought myself a self-charging case for my iPhone for $100. I knew I was going to get a lot of use out of it, which justified the cost. I was proud of myself for planning ahead and problem solving—for should my phone die in the middle of the day, I’d surely have a back up plan. Two weeks into my trip, the case stopped working. Since the only charger I had, charged the phone by way of a case that was broken, I had to buy another charger for €30. There was a problem, and I improvised. Weeks went by and I realized that my phone also had a terrible battery, despite the fact that it wasn’t that old, I’d taken good care of it, and it’d lived its entire life in a sturdy case. On top of having a battery that, at best, lasted about an hour on a full charge, the top power button was also broken for no apparent reason, which forced me to exert 500 times the amount of pressure it normally required to function. At that point, my phone was a daily source of frustration. Nevertheless, I improvised; I started bringing my charger with me everywhere I went. I wanted to avoid buying a new phone in a foreign country at all costs. I charged my iPhone 5 in the Anne Frank House museum while pretending to read books for 20 minutes in the same spot whilst utilizing a very conveniently placed power outlet. Once, I forgot my charger and was halfway to my destination on foot when my phone died, causing me to retrace my steps back to my hostel since I regretfully had no other map. About a month of this went by. Soon enough, I finally had my last straw. I’d mustered enough courage to go to the Apple Store to complain about all the trouble I’d gone through, and demand a new phone. I was in Berlin. Before I went to the Apple Store, I thought it’d be nice to stop for lunch along the way. Using Google Maps to get to a cute lunch spot I’d previously researched online, my phone died just when I happened upon a shiny men’s shoe store. I politely asked the cool, young, tumblr-worthy German boys if I could borrow their electricity for a moment, and they hesitatingly obliged. Thankfully I remembered my charger that time. With the precious power source, I quickly wrote directions to the lunch spot on a notepad. I left the shoe store and made it to the restaurant just in time for my phone to die again, only to discover that the only available outlet was tucked under some woman’s legs on the opposite side of the room. Disappointed, I ate my lunch and continued to meander around Berlin—hoping to find another place with wifi, conveniently placed outlets, and decent chai tea. The chai tea being good wasn’t really a criteria, but it did help. After successfully recharging my phone at a trendy café and reconfiguring directions from that location, I finally made my way to the Almighty Apple Store. I had waited so long. I knew they would understand my hardships and I couldn’t wait to tell them my sad story so they could sympathize with the young American traveler who can’t update her Instagram or use Google Maps because her iPhone will die after 30 minutes of use on a single charge. I stepped into the store and the bright, familiar Apple logo comforted me and reminded me of home. All the Apple workers were wearing red shirts and name tags and I felt they were my loyal heroes. The bright lights illuminated all of the sample products on display, which were programmed with the same desktop background of a mountain I’d climbed twice before back at home. It was Half Dome, in Yosemite, California. In America, where Apple was born. I described my entire story to the first accented worker I encountered, who then passed me on to one of their co-workers. After waiting five minutes to tell my story to him, I was passed on to another worker where I relayed my story a third time. After listening to my long story of unexplainable technological frustration, I was informed by the worker that I had two options: trade in the phone and buy a new one, or trade in the phone and buy a new one. The Berlin Apple Store people were not as impressed with my story as I’d hoped they’d be. I was disappointed that there wasn’t a third option where they enthusiastically replace my phone (their obviously faulty product) for free, but I suddenly wasn’t brave enough to argue with them about paying €250 for a replacement phone (which, by the way, is nearly twice what I would expect to pay in the States). Being as desperate as I was, I begrudgingly agreed to pay for a new phone. They then proceeded to guide me through a long and arduous process of transferring all my data and photos to the Cloud, which doesn’t make any sense to me (and I still never got my pictures back). At that point I’d been in the Berlin Apple Store for a good 45 minutes. After finally transferring all my information to the Cloud, I swiped my credit card on their handheld cash registers, (more iPhones) and paid for a new iPhone 5 (which was actually an “old” iPhone since the rest of the world had already moved onto the new iPhone 6, of which I was not eligible for unless I wanted to pay an additional €200). Fortunately, they had one left in stock and it was soon presented in its usual white case. By then I’d come to grips with the reality of paying €250 to finally end my misery, but to my dismay, when he pulled it out of the case and began to turn it on for the first time in its life, lo and behold, the iPhone was still only programmed with iOS 6! I mean for fucks sake I’m going through all this trouble and you mean to tell me that the phone I just paid for is so old that it doesn’t even have the latest software update?! They must’ve had to wipe the dust off it in the storage room. One look at the bulky, outdated interface with the big, silver unlock button and I nearly burst into tears right then and there. The guy working with me noticed it too and remarked that it was strange. “Yeah it makes me want to cry,” I said in a squeaky voice as I looked away, trying to hold back tears. He could tell I wanted to cry, but I could tell he wasn’t sure if it was because of the outdated software on a phone that I just paid an exorbitant amount for from a billion dollar company whose phones run the entire planet, while being in a foreign country on a budget that did not plan for this—or if it was just because I was a strange and oversensitive person. Anyway, all the German people seemed to sense my distress, yet did not inquire more about it or relate to me with any degree of sympathy. I get it, there’s nothing you can do. The last step in the process was to download the new software, which took longer than everyone expected. Eventually, the whole stress of the situation culminated in my head, and I did start crying there in the Berlin Apple Store. Everyone saw me crying, but they didn’t know how to help me or why exactly I was crying in the first place. I could have chosen to leave the store before the software finished updating, but I sat at the counter crying, thinking maybe my painfully awkward presence would elicit pity or a change of heart in someone. I thought maybe they’d offer to make an exception for me—by replacing my phone with a better one, giving me a discount, or offering to replace it “on the house”—since I seemed to be in such a dire condition. But alas, eventually one of the workers just said, “You can wait in here until it’s done, it’s okay.” I waited nearly an hour for the software to update in that Berlin Apple Store—half crying, half trying not to cry—and the whole time I couldn’t help but think about all those screen savers of Half Domes that I had climbed, in this wonderful place that no one there had probably ever been to, and how I really wanted to tell them about how I had climbed it before, but I knew I couldn’t because I was crying.