Better: How I found out my cell phone doesn't work under water

"Congratulations," said Doug. "You have a new exhibit for your Things I Accidentally Put in the Washing Machine Museum."

Over the years, I may have inadvertently laundered money, gum, ball-point pens, tools and hardware, entire wallets, floppy disks and flash drives, even my wedding and engagement rings.


But this was worse.

"You washed your cell phone," Doug announced.


I groaned and followed him to the kitchen, where my phone lay, in pieces, on a paper towel. And I'd only just figured out how to change the ring tone the week before.

"Did you read the part in the manual where it said, 'Don't put the phone in a washing machine?' "

"The manual?" I replied, aghast. "We don't need no steenking manual."

I rarely carry my phone around. I keep it in the car, for emergencies. I don't even know my number (although every phone solicitor in American seems to). I figure, if I want to chat while grocery shopping, I'll bring somebody along or strike up a conversation with a stranger in the produce section.

But that day I'd grabbed my phone out of the car to see if my son — who was teaching me how to text brief messages in less than 45 minutes with fewer than 72 typographical errors — had answered my last communiqué, which was:

"Wy duz thos thang keap chanjing werds i wright?"

After checking, I stuffed the phone in my back pocket and went outside to do some gardening.

Two hours later, covered in mud, weeds tangled in my hair and sticking out of both ears, I went inside. I tossed my dirty jeans in with the rest of the wash, started the machine, then threw myself in a tub of Gatorade. Doug discovered my water-logged phone, or what was left of it, when he moved the wet clothes into the dryer.

After days of drying out, my phone still retained a bubble of water beneath the touch screen. It moved around and changed shape when I pressed on the screen … sort of like a wet Etch-a-Sketch. Ordinarily, I'd find something like that hilarious — like, say, if it were Doug's phone. This time, not so much.

Reassembled (water bubble and all) the phone did take a charge and perform a few tasks; just not the ones I needed, such as receiving or making calls.

It wasn't dead, exactly. But it wasn't quite alive, either. It was an undead phone … zombie phone, if you will. It was fitting for a horror-movie buff like me, but no help in an emergency.

We went to the phone store where I encountered 3,794 different models with a total of 7 million distinct features between them. Picking up on my bewilderment — was it my eyes rolling back in my head that tipped him off? — a store associate came over.


"What features are you looking for?" he asked.

"I need a phone too big to fit in my pocket," I replied. "Something along the lines of a heavy, black 1950s rotary-dial desk phone with an oversized handset attached to the base by a tightly coiled wire."

Eventually we bought a phone, although I have no idea why we chose that particular model. Maybe because it's pink.

Back home, Doug took my new phone out of the package. But before handing it to me, he held out something else. Something small and white, with writing on it.

I shrank back in terror and felt my lunch trying to make a comeback.

"Oh, no," I cried. "No, please! Not the manual!"

Email Cathy Drinkwater Better at cbetter@juno.com.

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