When we lived in Chicago, S accidentally fried her cell phone by dunking it into a cup of tea. It was only a split second before her mind realized that a full teacup was probably not the best resting place for her phone, but by then it was too late. The phone never turned on again. Interestingly, when D lived in Ecuador, his friend’s wife frequently did laundry without checking the pockets of his pants. She must have washed his cell phone at least a dozen times and every time it came back to life. She would take out the battery, use a hair dryer to get rid of the moisture, and voila! S also tried drying out her phone, even placing it in a bag of rice, but to no avail.
In college, a girlfriend of D’s knocked over a beer bottle onto his laptop. The computer didn’t die right away, but the keyboard became a bit jumbled – a few keys stopped working altogether, others typed bizarre characters or letters that did not correspond to them. These incidents raced through D’s mind when he managed to knock a substantial amount of water onto his laptop this weekend. Even before he could get up to contain the mess, the screen went blank and the power light on the charger dimmed until it was barely visible.
After sopping up the water with paper towels, D tried to restart the computer (this, he later learned, was the wrong thing to do). Seeing that the laptop was unresponsive, he unplugged it, took out the battery, and put it upside down before trudging disconsolately off to bed. In the morning, he put the seemingly dead laptop in a plastic bag, dumped a couple of pounds of rice on top of the keyboard, and stowed it away for a day and a half. Given S’s experience with her cell phone, we did not harbor grand illusions about the rice doing the trick, but – amazingly – it worked. After reinserting the battery and plugging in the charger, D held down the start button for what seemed like an eternity. He had just about given up when the motor whirred to life and the computer turned back on again. Incredibly, it awoke from its water-logged slumber without a hitch and everything seems to be working as well as it did before the accident.
D took the above photo near the Costa Rica – Panama border crossing, which was so flooded when he visited in 2004 that he had to wade through knee-deep water after the bus dropped him off 2km shy of the border.