Wednesday, May 23, 2018
One of America's Great Newspapers ~ Toledo, Ohio

Mary Alice Powell

Harvey the phone survives a swim in washing machine

Harvey lives!

He is able to squeak when he receives a message and play a lively tune when he is called upon. Most of all, he is happy to be comfortably tucked into a pocket in my purse.

Harvey is my cell phone and is another example of how I feel compelled to name everything.

The story of Harvey is one of bravery and survival. Harvey was a low-cost $50 phone purchased only to send and receive calls. I am not interested in all the other tricks cell phones can now perform.

It is not unusual for me to misplace my cell phone and relocate it after calling to find it in a coat pocket, the garage, even the bathroom.

But this time Harvey was missing for more than a day. Back in Toledo, I retraced my trail to a motel and restaurant.

On the third day an idea flashed through my head to check the washing machine.

I wouldn't have. Or would I?

I would.

There in the bottom of the washer, in damp laundry I had obviously forgotten that I had washed, was my little black cell phone.

I picked up Harvey ever so gently and he immediately responded with a "peep." That told me that, unlike my other two disasters with wet cell phones, there was hope.

The rule for drying a phone is to bury it in dry rice for a few days. I am rarely out of rice, but I had used it a few days earlier to make cabbage rolls.

With Harvey continuing to sound an infrequent "peep," I panicked to resuscitate it. Rather than drive six miles to the store, I turned to a bag of dry tapioca. A product of Thailand, it was small and textured, not like the pearl tapioca we know in the United States, but somewhat like rice.

Harvey spent the night and most of the next day in the dry tapioca, sans the battery that I removed. A check-up at the Verizon store in Adrian seemed logical. After hearing my story, manager Patrick Brogan was astounded that Harvey was good to go, but he recommended another day of rest in the tapioca to be sure any water droplets were gone.

The other wet phone episodes did not have happy endings.

In one incident, the cell phone slipped from my lap into a tub of soaking water while I was getting a pedicure. It never revived.

And last fall I absent-mindedly poured a cup of to-go coffee into the travel mug on the dashboard where I always keep the cell phone. A few miles down the road when I took a sip of coffee, the cell phone hit me in the mouth. Despite the dry rice treatment, the phone was a loss.

So what was different about Harvey's tragedy? Obviously, the denim in the jeans served as a protection. Is it possible cell phone manufacturers are adding waterproof insulation for careless customers like me?

As for the Thai tapioca, I soaked and drained it, cooked it in water with sugar, and it turned into a mass of gray gelatin. It was served to the porch cats and is still there.

Mary Alice Powell is a retired Blade food editor. Contact her at:

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