When a cell phone goes through the washer

Things are definitely not as hopeless as you might think

Desk phone rings. Wife on the line.

Her: "Don't know how it happened, but the cell phone went through the washing machine."

Me, sounding criminally dumb: "Is it working?"

Her: "Uh, no, it went through the washing machine."

(Only later did I think of the snappy comeback: "And what exactly do you mean by you don't know how it happened? The thing didn't up and leap into the washer, now did it?")

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Her next gambit is to rummage around for a way to pin the rap on me. Neither of us has much use for a cell phone, so we share one, a four-year-old, plain-Jane Nokia 3595. I hadn't used it in quite some time. I didn't load the washing machine. Ipso, facto ... It's a half-hearted try on her part, which she quickly abandons in favor of a recovery effort.

Her: "Do you have anyone there who might know whether it will dry out or not?"

Me: "You mean like a Network World Underwater Gadget Guy?" (No, I'm not quick enough to have said that, but it was the gist of this part of the conversation and I wasn't taking notes, so please work with me.)

Her: "Don't be a ..."

Me: "I'll ask around."

Tim's office is next door to mine, so I ask Tim.

Me: "Tim, someone - I don't want to say who - put our cell phone through the washing machine. Any chance it'll dry out?"

Tim: "Tell Julie that, yes, it'll dry out."

Me: "And work again?"

Tim: "I think so. I've heard of it happening. ... Who was it? ... Oh, yeah, Neal; someone in Neal's family did the same thing and I'm pretty sure the phone worked again."

Never having been party to a cell-phone washing previously, at this point I'm somewhat startled to learn that not only has it happened before but it's happened to a colleague right here in the office. Since then I've learned that this kind of goof is actually quite common: A Google search for "phone in the washer" turns up 9,000 pages of such soggy tales.

I call home.

Me: "Hold the phone, Jules, don't toss it; Tim says it'll dry out."

Her: "I wasn't going to throw it out. It's in the junk drawer ... drying, I hope."

Next 10 minutes we talk about how this is probably for the best since it was an old phone and we really should have two anyway and won't this be a good story to tell to the kids when they get older. Our assumption: No matter what Tim says, that dripping phone in the junk drawer is most likely a hunk of junk.

But to satisfy my now raging curiosity, I walk across the newsroom to Neal's office.

Me: "Neal, Tim says you know something about cell phones going through washing machines."

Neal: "Yes, it happened to Alex's phone."

Alex being Neal's son, a college student ... an Ivy Leaguer, no less.

Me: "Did it dry out."

Neal: "Yes, but ..."

Me: "Work again?"

Neal: "Not exactly."

Me: "But Tim said it worked again. What happened?"

Neal: "It also went through the dryer."

Me: "Oh."

Neal, by the way, readily admits to being "the culprit" in his phone wash-and-dry.

So, you're undoubtedly asking, what about my phone? It hadn't been fried in the dryer. Did it live to tell the tale?

Happy ending: A few days later it blinks back to life without so much as a gurgle. Works just fine now, thanks.

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