Tuesday, September 22, 2020

A Phone in the River

September 9th, and an idle glance at the Assabet River from the south side of the Rail Trail bridge brought into view a cellphone on the bottom of the river, face up, in about a foot of water. Next day, still there. Next week, still there. While clearly visible from the bridge, getting to it would not be not simple. A person would have to enter the river on the north side, walk across about 60 feet of algae-slick rocky bottom, and then back. Clearly, the owner decided this was a lost cause. In all probability the phone is will still be there until the next serious high water moves it downriver.

Can a cell phone be rescued from a brief immersion in water? Yes. Newer models are water resistant. Recommendations in general are to get the phone out of the water as fast as possible. If it was on, turn it off. If it was off, do NOT turn it on. Wipe the externals dry. If possible to open it up, remove the battery and SIM card. Dry the inside. Next, there are emergency kits specific for rescuing wet phones – basically a plastic bag with packets of desiccant, to draw out the water. Takes about 24 hours. Prices are in range of $5 to 20. These work far better than burying the phone in dry rice. Don’t try drying the phone faster with a hair dryer! High temperatures can permanently damage cell phones. [And a little surprise: first generation 5G phones downgrade to 4G within minutes when the temperature gets much about 85 degrees Fahrenheit because the phones generate too much heat to safely stay in 5G mode.] Now, back to our phone-in-the-river, and let’s see if we can imagine various scenarios.

Oops. Perhaps the phone owner saw some photogenic wildlife in the river and wanted a photo. Animal sightings in or near this stretch of river have included beaver, muskrat, great blue heron, and snapping turtle, also the less photogenic fish, snakes and frogs.

Click to enlarge
“Oops.” Via use of a camera with a telephoto lens it was possible to make out the phone maker and model – a Samsung Galaxy 5 – introduced in spring 2014. This model met IP-67 water resistance standards, meaning that it should not be damaged by immersion in water up to one meter deep for less than 30 minutes.  Even at launch, the phone was criticized for clunky appearance and software, and too many unnecessary features, such as heart rate monitor. Samsung released the next model Galaxy 6 a year later. If this particular phone had become the hand-me-down to a child that was unhappy with being stuck with an outdated phone, it may have ‘accidently’ fallen into the river in a plot to get a better phone.

Distraction. Distracted walking is a thing. People have become so engrossed with what is on the small screen, or talking, or texting, that they have walked into lampposts, Honolulu passed a law making it illegal to look at a phone while crossing the street. London and other cities have experimented with padded lampposts. Vehicle/pedestrian accidents are increasing, and the pedestrians are increasingly at fault. (This is not to say that distracted driving is not contributing to more accidents, too.) Perhaps a person managed to walk into the side of the bridge and dropped their phone.

Ire: Two people walking, one intent on whatever is on the phone, while the other is trying to start an important conversation. In this scenario, the (one-sided) conversation could be along the lines of “What do you think? Hey, I’m talking to you! This is really important!! How can that phone be more important than what I am trying to tell you!” Splash.

Anger. This time, an imagined two-sided conversation. “I don’t want to date you anymore.” How can you say that when we are perfect together?” “I’m not happy with you anymore. Sometimes you say bad things about me in front of our friends.” “But you know I’m just joking.” “It doesn’t feel like joking.” “I’ll stop.” “You say that, but you don’t” “But I really, really love you.” “It’s too late for that.” “Yeah, well, remember those photos I took of you last week? On this phone? If you break up with me I’m going to put those on Facebook!” Grab. Splash.

UPDATE: After submitting this to the newspaper, a visit to the bridge discovered that someone had thrown a rock into the river that came to rest on top of the phone. The edge of the phone is still visible.

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