Well, my trademark bad luck was overdue for a big one. And as usual, my stupidity stemmed partly from my bad relationship with fate, and my tendency to retreat inside my brain away from my real world surroundings.

It was hot on Thursday for the processions I played with one of my Italian bands. Friday turned out to be warmer and more humid, and the first day I drove my car for lunch rather than walk, but it was still warm enough on Thursday that I felt every step of the ten plus miles I must have walked in the course of the day. I wasn't alone though, from the people in the societies we were playing for to the other band members, many of whom were decades older than I and managing fine. And all along, my father kept pace with us on the sidewalk for most of the day, definitely itching to come out of his partial retirement from long processions.

The other trusty companion by my side, in my right front pocket, was my cell phone. There was a time in my life when it, like so many other things like internet access or Netflix, was a monthly fee I didn't need. The idea is to increase my income as I get older, not add more things that drain it. But as with those other things, once I got it, it became more than a luxury, bordering on necessity.

Back in 2004, when I first started this blog, I was struggling with some kind of anxiety disorder brought about by the fear that I would pass out behind the wheel of my car. It was an irrational thought, but it was kind of an idea virus, one that I couldn't get out of my head once it was there, and when I found myself in certain situations on the road I'd get stuck in this loop where that subconscious concern made me tingly and short of breath, which made me more anxious, which made the symptoms worse, and so on. It took a long time for me to get over that, and it resurfaced for a bit last year, but one thing that came out of the experience was the value of a cell phone. I used to carry quarters and hope I was near a pay phone should I get an attack bad enough for me to pull over and call my folks to come get me. Once I had to pull over for more practical reasons, when I got a flat tire and then had the spare go flat a mile after I changed it. Miles from the nearest diner, it took me a while to call for help and get back to my car, at which point concerned residents had called the cops about the suspicious character parked in front of their big house.

Still, I thought a cell phone would be too expensive, and I couldn't justify the cost of something I'd only use for emergencies, most of which were apparently in my head. If anything, I needed one of those “pay when you use it” type phones, but even that seemed pointless to me. My parents thought otherwise by that point, and surprised me on my 30th birthday with a Verizon Samsung A650 cell phone. I was upset at first, but when they told me they had a matching one and got some kind of family deal, I gradually came around. In the early days, I rarely even turned my phone on and my mom's phone looks brand new because she sewed a little case for it and has maybe used it 10 times in the last 5 years. My phone is a different story. At first it was only for emergencies, but then I exchanged numbers with one or two friends. As time went on, more numbers were exchanged, and it became great for coordinating meeting for movies, happy hours, and other social events. I even exchanged numbers with various band leaders, so if I was running late for a gig or got lost, I could get in touch with them easily enough. Things that were once huge problems suddenly had a very easy solution that tucked nicely into my pocket.

Flash forward to this week's final band job on Thursday night, at the last of our stops, where I reached into a cooler to pull out two bottles of water, one for myself and another for my dad. Between the ice and humidity, my hand couldn't hang on to both and my other arm was busy cradling my instrument. One bottle slipped and bounced off the concrete below. I crouched, picked it up, and tucked it into my right pants pocket to make sure my dad got the good bottle. We then resumed marching, and I more or less forgot about the bottle, occasionally remembering and quenching my thirst. Exhausted when I finally got home around 10 PM, I plugged my phone into the wall to charge as I do every night, got caught up with my e-mail, blogging, and other online correspondence, and finally passed out.

Something wasn't right when I woke up the next morning. It felt late, like a Saturday morning when I sleep in, but I knew it was Friday and I had a busy day ahead of me catching up on the work I'd missed the day before. I flipped my phone open to check the time, and there was a black screen. The red light was on, so I knew it was charging, but I wondered why it had turned off. This had happened once or twice in the past few years, and never seemed like cause for alarm. But when I held the key to turn the phone on, nothing happened, and panic set in.

I raced to the kitchen, wondering why my father hadn't woken up yet. My brain danced between the fear that he'd overexerted at the feasts and passed away in his sleep, and my concern about what was wrong with my phone. When I heard his shuffling footsteps and he asked why I was up so early, I was able to focus on the phone problem. I wondered if the bottle in my pocket had leaked from being dropped, or if simple condensation had trickled down. I thought for sure I'd opened the phone at some point after drinking the water and it was still working. When my mom woke up, I tried swapping batteries, but my phone still didn't work. It wasn't the battery.

Completely disoriented, between getting up earlier on Thursday and not having a grasp on the true time, I ended up going to work an hour early, which wasn't a bad thing. In my frenzy to leave my mom had annoyed me by sharing an anecdote: “When Erica got her phone wet, she put it in a bowl of rice.” I explained that All My Children was not real life, and promptly rushed out the door. As I researched the problem online from my office, I came across a variety of solutions and suggestions, ranging from a hairdryer to the rice thing my mom had seen on AMC. Apparently, exposing a potentially water damaged phone to any heat source would risk melting the circuitry, but rice or desiccates would absorb any moisture. If done quickly enough, it could save the phone. Unfortunately, I had plugged the phone in the night before, another thing my research told me was bad; water and electricity do not mix.

So, to make a long story slightly less long, I picked up a two pound box of rice on my lunch hour and buried the phone and the battery separately. I need to leave them in there for at least 24 hours, and the suspense is killing me. I keep thinking about all the phone numbers, texts, and voice mails that might be forever lost; I'm not sure if this is the type of phone that lets you transfer that information to a new one. It doesn't use a SIM card. If by some miracle I do get the phone to turn on again, I'm totally writing down all the numbers I've gathered, even though that list is well into the double digits. My life is going to be so different without a phone, and water damage pretty much nullifies any obligation of the phone company to give me a new one. I'm not even sure how the deal with my mom's phone works, if we'd have to replace them as a pair. Hers is practically brand new, and makes me feel even worse about my inability to take care of anything. As the saying goes, this is why I can't have nice things.

And so I sit off a grid I didn't want to be part of in the first place, feeling wholly disconnected and adrift, and not having a clue what my next move will be if the rice fails. Why did I shove that bottle in my pocket? What was I thinking? Why was I not thinking? Even if I hadn't plugged it in overnight and had realized my mistake in time, with my luck the odds were already stacked against me. It may be too late, but I pray I'm wrong. My next cry for help might be via smoke signals....


Blogger b13 said...

Most policies allow you a "upgrade" at a discount every year or so. At 5 years I think you'll get one. Call your provider's customer service line and discuss it with them.

7/18/2009 12:37 AM  
Blogger Rey said...

Yeah man, you can get a new phone free and they'll reel you in for another 2 years, but at least you can get unlimited texting on your plan now unlike whatever 25 per text plan you have now.

7/18/2009 10:56 PM  
Blogger MCF said...

They were charging a dime per text before, oddly enough only when people sent a text TO ME. But yeah, we are under another 2 year contract now. Have to check what texting is if anything.

7/19/2009 12:37 AM  

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