Anecdote of the iPhone, or: Optimism

Forgetting my three-week old iPhone was in my pocket last night, I dove into my friend’s backyard pool. As I enjoyed the warm summer night half-submerged in cool water, my iPhone had a miserable time, spending the warm summer night completely submerged in cool water. I should mention that this fateful dive-in was made completely sober (this is not one of those, “I Was So Drunk Last Night and Let Me Tell You What I Did to my Cell Phone” stories).

So, an hour — or maybe two — later, I emerged from the pool and began looking for my phone poolside. It was then I discovered I’d effectively done the WORST POSSIBLE THING you could do to an iPhone.

Let me tell you why:

iPhones are incredibly easy to replace, it seems. Drop it — fine; just lie and say it stopped working. Boom, you’ve got yourself a brand new iPhone. Pretty much anything goes. Except when it comes to H2O.

The only thing not covered by the warranty, it seems, is water damage. And lying does no good: apparently there are signs, somewhere in the phone, that turn a different color when they make contact with water. So the Apple Store employees are not to be fooled, here.

Anyway, I start freaking out. I’m headed to Michigan tomorrow for a story, and so I was concerned about the prospect of making the trip without a phone. I was also concerned about money: from what I understand, I wouldn’t have been able to purchase a replacement for the low, low contract price I’d originally paid — $49. Instead, the replacement would be like, $200. In desperation, I buried my water-logged smart phone in a mound of rice and let it sit for the night.

Not surprisingly, it did nothing when I attempted to turn my phone on this morning. I wish this could turn into one of those, “Without a Cell Phone, I Discovered It’s Sometimes Good to Get Away From Our Technology Addiction” stories. And maybe I could, had my phone not been a smart phone and had been something more like my previous phone — an LG Lotus (which isn’t to sneeze at the Lotus, known colloquially as The Square, which resembles a little labtop, which is a phone I love). But it’s hard to conjure such a story when it comes to the smart phone because they coax you into a kind of dependence that non-smart phones do not. My phone was my iPod, my road map, my inbox, etc. It’s not really that I can’t  live without it; it’s more that it’s remarkably inconvenient to do so.

So I call Apple.

“Let me spin you a yarn about a brand-new iPhone 3G and a swimming pool,” I started.

When I finally got to asking how much a replacement would be, the bored young woman who’d answered my call told me just what my friends had, just what I hadn’t wanted to hear:

“That’ll run you about $200,” she said.

I took stock of my options.

Keep my phone under rice for like, a week and hope it works. Or, just suck it up and pay the $200.

So I went with the latter. And let me tell you, hypothetical reader, that sometimes you get lucky.

I got to the Apple store, angry at myself for screwing up my phone, angry at Apple for putting me in this lose-lose situation. My turn came up, and I told the guy what happened. He said it happens all the time — three times today, in fact, he’s dealt with something similar. I asked if there was any cheap way of handling it. He said the $200 option was the cheapest.

“When did you get the phone?” he asked.

“Literally like, three weeks ago.”

“OK,” he said. “Let me run back and see what I can do.”

So here I am, sweating slightly from the heat outside, watching customers checking out iPads and the like — worry-free and excited about the prospect of their new toys. I yearned for that same innocence, that same pre-water-logged jubliation I felt each time I received a phone call. And then, he returned — phone in one hand, sheet of paper in the other.

“I’m a big beleiver in second chances,” he told me. “I see you got this three weeks ago, you’ve got Apple Care — we can give you a free replacement this time.”

“Are you serious?” I asked, literally wondering if this wasn’t some sick prank played by some hip Apple person on some clumsy, non-hip, first-time Apple product user.

“Yeah, just sign here,” he said.

It’s quite a thing to expect to pay some astronomical amount and then not have to pay it. It makes you feel richer.

And so, yes: I ruined my phone by not thinking, and had the slate wiped clean because of what I expect is some wiggle room in the Apple warranty policy. I don’t deserve this new phone, but I am glad to have it, and I think it goes to show: you occasionally do get bailed out. In matters of success and smart phones, life is often a meritocracy. Sometimes, though, you just get lucky.

 

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About Eric Lutz

Eric Lutz is a Chicago-based writer. His work frequently appears in Newcity magazine. He has also written for the Chicago Reader, Welter and a number of newspapers. View all posts by Eric Lutz

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