To travel in time
In the middle of the Dalsland countryside, I find an old telephone booth standing outside a flea market on a farm. But instead of a phone, they have thrown in some kind of plant trellis and a plastic flower in it. I probably can’t call anyone here.
The phone booth acts as a time gate. I will think of the classic TV series Doctor Who where the mysterious Doctor travels through time with the help of a blue, British police kiosk. However, my time travel is not of an intergalactic nature – I remain here with both feet firmly anchored in the Swedish crowd.
But I am overwhelmed by childhood memories from a time when there were still telephone kiosks of this type in Sweden. I remember all the times we called Dad in the late summer when we were still in the trailer and he was back at work after the holidays. The evenings darkened and there was a breeze from the sea through the open sides of the phone booth. The legs were cold.
The metal door was heavy to open and there was a dull and tinny sound inside the kiosk. The old thumbed telephone directories, which hung in a special rack, smelled of old paper. Sometimes there was a sticker on the glass that said “Stop the sabbat” to get thugs of the time to stop destroying (“sabbath”) the phones. The green-enameled telephone was fed with coins – one krone, fifties, and sometimes even twenty-five. When the call time was up, the handset rang. Then you had about half a minute to end the call or insert a new coin.
Every now and then the question is asked if we will ever be able to travel time. I say it is already possible. All you have to do is look for an old phone booth and set off. I’m suddenly there. I hear my father’s voice in the heavy, black bakelite handset as we talk. I feel impatience as I think Mum and Dad talk for far too long. I see the exciting red SOS/90,000 button on the gray-green face of the phone. I feel the smell of the heavy phone books and the chill of the sea breeze against my legs. Above all, I feel a lump in my throat when the phone rings, and I have to say goodbye to Dad in half a minute. Then the call is disconnected.
It is a purely physical journey where I experience another time with all my senses. What more could we really ask for from time travel? It is about the power that can be stored in an individual object but also in a text or an image. I often think about it when I write or illustrate. It sometimes takes very little to open up similar memories as the blue phone booth did. I am now back in our time in 2023, but I am also still standing there in the phone booth in 1975, freezing my legs in the late summer evening.
It is a very nice memory!
Mattias Kvick is an author and illustrator