There is nothing more dangerous than texting and driving. Except, perhaps, taking your phone into the washroom on New Year's Eve. (And let's be honest. Who doesn't take their phone into the washroom these days?)
When I went to get an iPhone a couple of weeks ago, the nice employee at the Telus store, at Bayview Village mall in Toronto, told me that Jan. 2 is their busiest day of the year. He explained that they have lineups out the door, 25 people deep (they are closed, like most places, on Jan. 1). He said the lineup is not due to people wanting to return Christmas gifts, but because on New Year's Eve, when people tend to be out celebrating at parties and bars, numerous phones are accidentally dropped into toilets.
Stacey Otis is only one of many who have dropped her phone into the toilet at a bar while tipsy. "I always put my phone in my back pocket, so when I sat down it fell out," she says. "It's absolutely disgusting, even though I hadn't gone yet. Because you have to think, 'Do I want to get it out, or should I just leave it and flush it down?' " Like most people, Otis can't live without her phone. "I just felt screwed. It's like your life is down the toilet, literally."
It's not a problem confined to New Year's Eve. Phil Kundu of iRepair, a phone-repair chain with stores in Toronto and British Columbia, says he had four customers come in the day after I spoke to him with water damage to their phones.
"For sure, our busiest days are after the holidays when people drink and go to bars to celebrate," he says. "Saturdays are also extremely busy, because people go out on Fridays and drink." His stores routinely get 20 to 25 customers with water damage coming in on Saturdays. The first question his employees ask is, "What kind of water damage is this?"
Of course, many are embarrassed to admit their phones were in a toilet. "A lot of our customers shrug and hem and haw and we just know what happened. Or they'll say, 'I dropped it in a puddle,' or come up with some other lame excuse."
For this reason, his technicians wear rubber gloves when they work on water-damaged phones.
Iphones can be fixed, but Kundu says the sooner the better. "It may still work, but there is still water in it and it will eventually break the circuit boards."
Bonnie Sarzad, owner of repair shop iRepex, says water damage is one of the most common problems she sees. "Usually after the holidays it's so busy," she says. "It's so much more common that people drop their phones in the toilet than you can even imagine." The day before I spoke to her, she had five people come in with water damage and managed to fix four of them. "Of course they lie about what happened," she laughs. "Who wants to admit they dropped their phone in a toilet? And they usually are very upset."
The good news is, in most cases, a wet phone can be repaired, sometimes by swapping out parts for new ones. And not surprisingly, "How to repair a phone with water damage" is a huge topic on the Internet. Suggestions include removing it from water immediately (that includes toilet water), rinsing it with fresh water and removing the battery, then letting it dry for 24 hours while buried in a bowl of uncooked rice, which absorbs moisture.
If you do end up having to replace the phone you took to that party, consider investing in a waterproof case. It may not prevent you from drunk-dialling, but it'll save you some cash.