July 15, 2013

Us and Thames

"Apple Customer Service, this is Steve."

"Yeah hi, I'm calling to replace my iPhone."

"I can help you with that.  Can you give me the serial number please?

"BCG dash E2430A."

"...no, that's not it."

"IC579C dash E2430A?"

"That's not showing anything either.  Can you go into your Settings, and under General if you scroll down..."

"I can't turn on the phone."

"Is that because you don't have it or because it won't turn on?"

"It won't turn on."

"Okay.  Did something happen to your phone?

"It suffered water damage."

"And you haven't been able to operate it since the water damage?"


"Have you tried to dry out the phone or shut it down for 24 hours? Some people also use uncooked rice."


"Sometimes the uncooked rice soaks up enough residual moisture to..."

"I never would have thought of that."

"It wasn't my idea either, I've just heard that some people have had success with it."

"I dont think rice is going to work."

"Why not?"

"It's been a while since my iPhone stopped working."

"How long has it been?"

"Four months."

"Oh.  Probably not.  Let's see if we can find your account on the system.  Can you give me your Apple ID?


"Thank you.  I'm looking up your purchase history."

"Where are you located?"

"Where am I located?"

"Yeah.  Are you in Cupertino?"

"All customer service calls are routed through our central call center."

"Right but where are you located at this moment while we are having this conversation?  I don't mean it like "I'm not talking to someone in INDIA am I?" or anything like that.  I'm just curious."

"We aren't supposed to disclose our location."

"Okay, sorry.  I wasn't trying to be weird."

"No that's fine.  Regarding your Apple account, I see you purchased this iPhone in November of last year."

"I don't remember."

"It says November 14, which means your warranty expired a few weeks ago.  I'm sorry."

"That's fine.  I still need a new phone."

"If you don't mind my asking, why didn't you contact us sooner to replace your iPhone?"

"I don't know.  I just didn't get around to it."

"Of course, of course.  I wish we could have submitted this for you under the warranty.  It doesn't look you purchased the Apple Protection Plan, which would have..."

"That's not why."

"Excuse me?"

"It's true I didn't get around to it, but that's not why I haven't replaced my iPhone."

"You aren't obligated to provide a reason if we can't apply..."

"I haven't replaced my iPhone because it's a reminder."

"I thought the phone doesn't work."

"Not calendar reminders.  It reminds me of my daughter drowning."

"Oh my god.  I am so sorry."

"No I mean thanks, but she's fine.  She's alive.  Sorry about that.  She almost drowned, in the Thames River, while we were on vacation in London.  We were on the terrace of a local pub, sitting with friends at the end of a perfect day.  All the kids wandered down to the bank of the river to feed the ducks.  Layla was 5 years old.  She couldn't swim at all.  We were all talking at the table, eating and drinking.  There was a white picket fence separating us from the riverbank.  Thankfully it wasn't a kosher mechitza."

"A what?"

"A mechitza is the wall that separates the men and women when they are seated in an Orthodox synagogue.  It is supposed to be at least five feet high."

"Oh.  Got it.  You were sitting down but this fence wasn't very high, so you could see the kids."

"Right.  So for whatever reason, I tracked the kids as they made their way to the riverbank and onto the wooden pier that jutted out just slightly.  It wasn't really a pier, it was horizontal to the water.  Is there a word for that?"

"It's hard for me to visualize what you're describing."

"It was a wooden pier but it didn't extend out over the water, so I guess it wasn't a pier. It ran parallel along the side of the river, and extended maybe a foot over water's edge."

"Where was this?"

"A town called Kingston on Thames, southwest of downtown London."

"I spent a semester abroad in London my junior year, but I don't think I know where that is."

"Did you enjoy it?"

"I loved it."

"Is this your first job after college?"

"No.  I've only been here five months."

"Do you like it?"

"No.  Sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt you."

"I am drinking my pint, quoting The Big Lebowski with my friend, but keeping an eye on the kids.  Ducks are swimming up to the pier thing because the kids have a loaf of bread and are throwing pieces into the water.   I see Layla moving closer to the edge, leaning over to feed the ducks, leaning over too far.  She loses her balance and pirouettes into the water.  As I remember it, I jumped out of my chair, yelled "Layla's in the water," ran around the fence, down to the water, and jumped in."

"What do you mean 'as you remember it'?"

"Apparently I did not yell anything.  And I didn't run around the fence, I jumped over it."

"Is there a word for that?"

"When you don't remember details of a traumatic moment, even immediately afterwards?"



"Could you see her?"

"No.  I just ran to where I thought she fell in.  I didn't know how deep the water was.  I just jumped in  and reached down."

"And you grabbed her?"

"And pulled her out of the water.  It was just like the moment she was born.  She was a c-section.  The doctor pulled her out, all wet and slimy, and there was a moment of silence before she took her first breath.  It was terrifying.  And again in the Thames, that silence.  But then she breathed, and choked, and coughed a lot.  I swam us over to the pier and handed her off to someone, and yelled at myself to stay calm and not scare the kids."

"By yelling?"

"I didn't actually yell.  It was like a self-admonition to keep it together."

"So Layla was fine?"

"She recovered quickly.  Just needed some warming up.  For a while she had nightmares that she was being bitten by ducks.  But now she knows how to swim."

"And your iPhone was in your pocket."

"It's the only tangible thing I have from that day."

"What was so perfect about the day?"

"It was just...the weather was perfect, a warm summer day but not too hot.  In the morning we toured Hampton Court Palace, where Henry VIII lived.  Then we went swimming at a local pool.  In the afternoon we made our way to the local park, which had carnival rides for the kids.  My son and I found some people playing a hybrid cricket/baseball game, and they invited us to join them.  We played and everyone had a big laugh trying to learn each other's rules.  The pub was located right behind where we were playing.  We all walked right onto the terrace and the best table in the place was waiting for us.  Thank god it was right by the fence."

"And now your daughter swims?"

"She loves the water."

"Aren't you scared?

"Of what?

"The water.  Her."

"Why would I be scared only of the water?"

"So are you over-protective now?"

"No.  I don't think so.  I just feel...humbled.  Helpless."

"But you weren't helpless."

"Do you have kids?"

"No. Not yet."

"Parenting is an endless process of letting go.  Letting go means you can't always protect them.  It didn't matter that I pulled her out of the water.  I mean it mattered, but the lasting feeling wasn't relief, or pride.  Ever since it happened, I've been trying to accept what I can't control.  It's terrifying."

"But you got her out, and she's fine."

"When I got out of the water someone handed me a bar towel to dry myself off.  It didn't help much, but I did what I could with it and then walked back into the pub to return the towel.  A lot of people started crying when they saw me.  At the time I thought that was a strange reaction, seeing as how Layla was fine.  But afterwards, when I had time to think about it, I understood."

"Salt Lake City."


"I live in Salt Lake City."


"If you've waited this long to turn in the iPhone, you could just wait longer at this point.  Nothing's going to change in terms of what it's going to cost you to get a replacement."

"Thanks, but I'm ready."

"Okay, then I just need to ask you a few questions."

"And uh, thanks for listening.  Sorry to take up your time like that."

"No worries, really.  I've never had a perfect day."

"Maybe tomorrow."

"Probably not.  I'm working 4 pm to midnight."