John's World: Dumb and Dumber

September 27, 2013 09:28 PM
John Phipps

My faithful dog, Maizey, takes me for a walk every day about 4 p.m. She used to take me for a run, but just between us, I think she’s slowing down. Anyhoo, the timing of our ramble during the summer is designed to match up our return with the normal invasion schedule of our grandchildren up the road. Memo to grandparents-to-be: If you want ample time with your grandchildren in the summer, install a pool. (Note: Your definition of "ample" can vary.)

I efficiently wear my swim trunks for the walk so I can both dazzle passing neighbors with my avant-garde fashion sense and plunge right in for cooling relief upon returning. My wife, Jan, prompted me to take along my cellphone. I was touched by her concern and told her so. She replied, "Well, I suppose there is that, but my real expectation is you will probably start needing to call for directions back, the way things have been going."

Fair point. Internet cov­erage can be iffy in our neck of the woods, and I can’t always rely on Google Maps to talk me back the two miles of flat, straight road home. I followed her wise advice.

It turns out that iPhones are far less waterproof than you might think

Enough foreshadowing. In late July, after one blisteringly hot march in the upper 70s, I broke into an actual jog for the last few yards as the splashing and treble shrieks lured me to the blissful waters. Wrestling off my soaked T-shirt, hopping while discarding shoes and socks, I executed a perfect cannonball into the pool.

Remember the part about the cellphone? Well, I didn’t. In mid-cannon, I glanced in horror at my waist. Not the same horror as every morning in the mirror, but a new one centered on the electronic device that shouldn’t be there. It turns out iPhones are far less waterproof than you might think.

Even after frantically administering CPR, with a few screen flashes and an alarming fever, the poor thing died. When I shared this sad story with a friend, he told me it’s worse with an Android phone as they pathe­tically whimper "d…r…oid" at the end. Regardless, my ability to function in the real world was the second casualty.

On the bright side, I was already thinking about upgrading. Since we have all our farm gadgets on one whopping account, there is almost always one phone qualified for an upgrade. I took the corpse to my Verizon store for its last rites and salvage value (none, by the way). Oddly, they asked me if I had tried putting it in rice. I had no idea they were edible.

My luck continued its perverse path  because I was three weeks from a qualifying upgrade. The cost difference was enough to buy a power tool or groceries for a month, so I stilled my quivering lip and accepted a basic loaner phone until I was allowed to spend only an exorbitant amount for a new smartphone.

The horror. But I was unprepared for the quality-of-life disaster of reverting to a dumb phone. While I can still vaguely remember not having a smartphone, every routine operation seemed totally unfamiliar. And to be fair, hitting "Send" to answer is not intuitively obvious, you must admit.

Nor could I call anyone. I had no idea what Jan’s mobile number was, and she is like family to me! No amount of swiping the tiny display would bring up any of my 47 apps.

I couldn’t set a timer to prompt me to get the chicken off the grill. No automatic wardrobe advice to help me dress correctly, e.g. "Pants first, then shoes." I couldn’t tweet about what I had for lunch or text Anthony Weiner jokes. Worst of all, my mileage app was gone, as well as the past three  year’s worth of data.

Most great gag lines for my columns seem to pop into my head while driving, so I preserve them with a voice recording app. Inasmuch as my whole inventory drowned in my pool, that explains the subdued mood of this piece, in case you were wondering. My shopping notes for Rural King were gone; I became listless.

Of course, I didn’t know how to check the markets without my AgWeb app, so sales of corn and beans I am positive I would have made when prices were still above my break-even didn’t happen. At least I can show my banker it was clearly the phone’s fault.

My heart is now moved for folks with phones barely as smart as they are. That touching quote came to me: "I wept because I had no iPhone, until I met a man sending postcards."

So don’t give me a hard time about the ziplock bag on my new phone, OK?

What do you get when you cross the intellect of an engineer, the heart of a farmer and the charm of a TV host? The ever-witty John Phipps.Contact him at:


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