Relay: A Gurgle, a Spark, Then, Nothing

Get it out! Dry it off! I can’t believe this is happening!

   My iPhone 4 fell out of my back pocket and into the toilet.
    Three things raced through my mind when I heard the splash: Get it out! Dry it off! I can’t believe this is happening!
    I grabbed a towel and rubbed, and then I did what you are never, ever supposed to do when your cellphone gets wet: turned it on.
    A flicker of life! The little Apple silhouette — glowing, otherwordly — appeared . . . and vanished.
    Shaking the phone achieved nothing except a faint gurgle, probably imaginary. Now what? More power, I thought, hurrying to a wall plug (and thereby compounding the never-turn-it-on rule). This time I thought I saw a spark — the oh-boy-now-you’ve-done-it kind you see just before the bulb dies — then, nothing.
    This happened on June 6, a Thursday, a day that will go down in my personal infamy because two days later my two-year contract with AT&T was due to expire and I’d be getting an upgrade to a 5. By happy coincidence, AT&T was running big ads that same week offering up to a $100-credit on an old phone, depending on its condition.
    Depending on its condition! The nice young geek at the East Hampton store had already checked out my 4 and pronounced it eligible for the full $100 rebate! “See you very soon,” he’d said as I left.
    So, $100 down the drain. Literally.
    Thursdays are editorial meeting days at The Star, when we talk about the next week’s issue. Maybe somebody will have some ideas, I thought as I got in the car to go. It couldn’t hurt to ask.
    Sure enough, after they got through snickering there was universal agreement: Try rice. If rice doesn’t work you’ve had it, but try rice.
    Rice, it seems, has something in it, I forget what, that dries out moisture. You stuff the cellphone down into a bag of rice and leave it there for — well, it depends.
    I ran out of the meeting and drove to Citarella, the closest place I could think of with rice, and ran out with a bag of Nishiki Premium Grade Japanese White Rice, figuring the expensive stuff might work better than Uncle Ben’s. (“After you take your phone out of the rice, could I have the rice?” somebody asked.)
    That night, hoping for the kind of miracle that dozens of people on Google (which I should have consulted before trying the tune-in-turn-on routine) swore had happened to them, I took the phone out of the rice and pushed the On button.
    Nothing. I pushed it back in, way down deep, and stuck the bag in a cabinet next to a box of spaghetti.
    We were going to Oregon to visit family that weekend, but there were still two days day left before I could get my upgrade. I settled for a temporary GoPhone in the meantime, which I do not recommend except in a similar emergency and unless you have really good eyesight.
    Back at AT&T to turn it in, my geek heard the sad story with sympathy but little surprise. “Happens all the time,” he said, handing over the long-awaited iPhone 5 and a bill for $100 more than it should have been. “Never knew rice to work, myself.”
    We had a great week with the grandkids. Not long after we got back we had pasta for dinner, and — oh, yes — the miracle!
    I’ve learned something from this: Don’t keep a cellphone in your back pocket. Also, give rice a try, only give it plenty of time. A week would be about right.


   Irene Silverman is editor-at-large at The Star. She is at large in Amagansett at the moment.