Players: Me, Old Man, Brother, Saleswoman
Act One: Washed Up and Ruined
It's Memorial Day weekend, and we've gathered at the old folk's home in sunny Walnut Creek, Calif., about 20 miles east of San Francisco. Three days of bliss, or so I thought.
I'm sitting in the backyard patio listening to the soothing voice of the late Hawaiian singer Israel Kamakawiwo'ole in his rendition of Wonderful World, while smoking an apple-bowl pipe with sweet smelling tobacco.
Suddenly, the Old Man comes outside and says the saddest, nastiest, most dastardly words ever told to an iPhone owner.
Old Man: "Um, Tom, your iPhone was in the washing machine." (That's right, I still occasionally do my laundry at my parents' house. So what?)
Old Man: "I heard something banging around..."
Me: "What did you say?"
Old Man: "The grief that does not speak whispers the o'er-fraught heart, and bids it break." (Okay, he didn't really quote Shakespeare's Macbeth; I just don't remember what he said.)
Apparently not interested in listening to Wonderful World, the Old Man exits the stage and I'm left to figure out exactly what happened. Then it all comes crashing down. The iPhone and all my pretty apps have been destroyed in one fell whirl of the washing machine.
I lean back in my chair and utter the lonely words, "My Precious."
Act Two: Got Rice?
A flurry of cussing follows, which can't be quoted here. Chaos and finger-pointing ensue. Blame is quickly dealt to the appropriate parties. I'll have to buy a new iPhone. Is the Apple Store open on Memorial Day? How much is it going to cost?
Then my older brother, a NASA engineer, enters bearing false promises.
Brother: "I just researched this on the Internet. I know how we can save it. People have done it—with rice, Tom."
Me (after a long pause with an incredulous expression, as if to say, "How much does NASA pay you?"): "I guess you didn't read my story about water being the death knell of the iPhone."
For those of you too lazy to click on the link and give me a page view, here's the important part:
One reader wrote to me that Apple refused to fix her broken iPhone because the Apple technician saw a red line on the base of the phone where the charger attaches. "It's some kind of liquid submersion indicator," she says, adding that her new iPhone was never exposed to water, rain or humidity. "They insisted I must have somehow submerged the iPhone in water, voiding all warranties."
When an iPhone gets caught up in the washing machine, you'll probably have to kiss it goodbye. "This all-too-common cause has a high mortality rate due to the thorough and prolonged penetration of the water," says Aaron Vronko, CEO of Rapid Repair, an iPod and iPhone repair shop.
But my brother insists.
Using a tiny screw driver, he removes two screws at the base of the damaged iPhone. He gets a cheap suction cup from his car (the kind used to hold up a sign like "Baby on Board") and removes the iPhone glass. I have to admit, I was surprised at how easy the iPhone could be taken apart.
He then places the iPhone pieces into a bowl of uncooked rice, which he says will pull out the water. We leave it overnight—a restless night for me.
In the morning, the iPhone is bone dry, the rice having done its job. I put it back together and send a charge through it. Nothing happens. I take it apart again. One half of the iPhone starts playing a song (no, not Wonderful World). After repeating the process a few times, I chalk it up to a lost cause and, sadly, make my way to the Apple Store.