Kevin Courtney

Kevin Courtney is city editor of the Napa Valley Register.

J.L. Sousa, Register

Was I rushing? Of course I was rushing. Isn’t that when bad things always happen?

Arriving home from work as darkness fell, I spied a problem with my pool sweep. Springing into action, I knelt at water’s edge, fished out the skimmer, remounted the collection bag, then leaned over to drop it back in.

The skimmer went splash, but so did a black object falling from my shirt pocket. I felt a jolt of horror, but I couldn’t move my hands fast enough.

Plunk!

That was the sound of my three-week-old, $550 cell phone ($600 if you figure sales tax) going to a watery grave.

Hearing of my moment of supreme carelessness, people later asked, You jumped in, right? Three feet of chlorinated water is death on cell phones.

No, I did not jump in. Night was falling, the water was cold, I was in my work clothes. Jumping in was the farthest thing on my mind.

Instead, I sprinted 50 feet and grabbed a pool net on a long pole, then I sprinted back. I had my dripping-wet phone back in my hands in less than a minute.

Running indoor, I announced to Cheryl that a bad, bad thing had just happened. We need rice now!

Does burying a dunked phone in rice actually work? Maybe, maybe not. Cat litter and oatmeal may work better. And air drying may be better yet.

But didn’t have time for research. I had an emergency on my hands.

Cheryl’s response was not altogether unexpected: What was I doing around water with my phone on me?

Honestly, Cheryl! This isn’t a time for questions. It’s a time for rice.

She got out the rice, while I queued up a YouTube video on how to resuscitate a drowned phone. Speaking ever soooo slowly in a British accent, a guy ran through the drill.

Bowl of rice, sure. Hard shutdown, essential. Don’t even think of restarting for at least 48 hours.

I was heartsick. My beautiful new phone. So fast, so capable. Now look what I’d done.

In retrospect, there had been warnings. I’d kept my old phone snug in a case attached to my belt. My new phone didn’t fit the case so it lived a more precarious life in shirt and pants pockets.

I informed my coworkers that I would be out of cell action for two days. If they wanted to reach me after hours, they should call or text Cheryl’s phone.

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Put another way, I had to cling tight to Cheryl for the next 48 hours lest she become the Register’s de facto city editor.

It was weird to be at home at night incommunicado. It was weirder yet to be asking Cheryl if she had any news from the paper.

My coworkers were optimistic. Today’s phones are tougher and able to withstand a moderate amount of immersion, said Samie, the Register’s online editor.

Online editors are tech savvy, right? Thank you, Samie. You give me hope.

But not a lot of hope. I fully expected the worst outcome as punishment for my foolishness. I anticipated having to head out on Black Friday to line up at the AT&T store for a replacement device. I would walk away with a phone in which I’d essentially invested $1,200.

I tried to see a silver lining in all this. In the future, perhaps I would live more consciously. No fast movements, no darting about. I would acquire cosmic awareness of my place on the planet ... and the location of my cell phone on my body.

Could I wait 48 hours to test the rice bowl trick? Of course not. Being shut off from the world had quickly worn me down. On Thanksgiving morning, 35 hours after the splash, I fired her up.

My iPhone restarted perfectly and performed flawlessly.

Everything Samie had said about new phones was true. They are much tougher than older models. When challenged, they can even come back from the dead.

Note: My column on Nov. 19 detailed my high hopes for doing well in the Davis Turkey Trot 10K. And how did things go? I finished second among nine men in my age group. I was bestowed a medal! A good time was had by all family members.

Kevin can be reached at 707-256-2217 or Napa Valley Register, 1615 Soscol Ave., Napa, 94559, or kcourtney@napanews.com.

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