Blogs > Jim Collins' Editor's Notebook

Jim Collins is editor emeritus of The News-Herald and also serves as executive in residence at Lakeland Community College. His popular weekly column appears each Sunday in Comment in The News-Herald.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Getting a charge out of a problem with the cell phone

It all began when the lady of the house was preparing a couple bowls of water for the two darling puppies.

She may not have been the first person to endure such a mishap, but fate stepped in and diverted her attention. The worst possible thing happened. She dropped her cell phone into one of the bowls of fresh, cool water.

“Did it float?” she was asked.

Don’t laugh. Bigger things than cell phones float. When I was stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, in 1954, a young soldier inadvertently drove an M59 armored personnel carrier into the deep, murky waters of Belden Dam – and it floated.

What’s more, they discovered it could be maneuvered by running the tracks. (It was a full track-laying vehicle, as were Army tanks.) From then on it was referred to as the “amphibious M59 armored personnel carrier.” I am not making this up. But I digress.

The case of the soggy cell phone set off a week-long adventure. We drove out to Verizon Wireless in Mentor and explained the problem to a very understanding young man who explained our options.

We had twin cell phones, and wanted to keep it that way. We switched brands, to Samsung, and got two new cell phones, absolutely free!

Don’t ever tell Steve Byron anything is free. He will launch into an economic dissertation on why nothing is free, including a lunch that someone else pays for or two new cell phones that you don’t pay for. He is probably right. All I know is that I didn’t have to pay for the new cell phones.

What’s more, all the data in her soggy phone was transferred intact into her new phone. And, of course, all the data in my former phone was also transferred.

Case dismissed, right? Well, no. By the time I got my new phone home, the bars that show the level of the phone’s charge were down to two. By morning both bars were gone.

I charged the phone up to the full four bars and took it to work. By lunch time it was down to two. By mid-afternoon both were gone.

That meant another trip to Verizon. The battery in this brand new phone is no good, I told the lady. “Did you bring in the charger?” she asked. Never thought of that, I said.

It’s probably a bad charger, she said. Let me put it on one of ours.

 After a few minutes it charged up to two bars. There, it’s OK now, she said.

By the time I got home, it was down to zero again. So I charged it that night, not on my “faulty” charger, mind you, but on the lady’s charger. We couldn’t both have gotten bad chargers, could we?

Next day it was back up to four bars. By noon it was down to two. By afternoon, zero.

Whoops! Back to Verizon.

I was met at the door by a friendly young man by the name of Bill. Actually, all the people there are friendly. But that, as they say, is neither here nor there.

I explained my predicament. Follow me, he commanded. We went back to his work station. The battery is no good, I told Bill. Right next to him, less than an arm’s length away, was the same woman who had waited on me the day before.

She heard our conversation. He was in here yesterday, she told Bill. The charger is no good.

He thought he would give my theory a try anyway and blame the battery. He removed the battery. He held it up and said to the woman, do we have these in stock?

No, she replied. He left for a moment, went to the back room, and came back with a new battery that looked exactly like the old one. Let’s try this new battery, he said, snapping it into my phone.

“Are you going to transfer the stored-up information into my new battery?” I asked. He looked at me quizzically, as if I were supposed to know about such things.

The information isn’t in the battery, he said. It’s in the phone. Oh, I responded, as if I understood.
I took my new phone home and charged it up to the full four bars. On my old “faulty” charger, yet.

I have used it quite a bit since then. It is still charged and showing no signs of fatigue, except that after several days it finally went down to two bars. As I look at it now, it still has two bars.

Thanks, Bill. I’m going to have to study up on these gadgets one of these days, so at least I will know where the information is stored without embarrassing myself.


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