Lesson: Paint and phones do not mix

UNDER THE COVER: Lifting the back of a smartphone.
UNDER THE COVER: Lifting the back of a smartphone.

Bear with me, because this week I'm writing about my new smartphone - again.

It wasn't my intention to write about the phone a third time. I'm only too aware that it's possible for columnists to thrash subjects to death and I had no intention of doing just that. But I had a little mishap last week that probably bears retelling, embarrassing for me though that may be, and inevitably it involves my phone.

I had almost finished a marathon painting project that has taken several weeks. In fact, I thought I HAD finished the project until a friend pointed out that I'd missed a small edge inside a cupboard.

LESSONS LEARNED: Columnist Derek Burrows shares some of the things he has learned through smartphone ownership.
LESSONS LEARNED: Columnist Derek Burrows shares some of the things he has learned through smartphone ownership.

Stung by this slur on my DIY capabilities, I decided to put this to rights the very next day. Because it was such a small job I didn't don my usual painting clobber. I knew that only a few brushstrokes were involved and as I had spent the previous month making very little mess while painting, I was confident that I would have no problem with this small task.

Lesson one: Never tempt fate.

Lesson two: If you are going to tempt fate, don't put your mobile phone in the top pocket of your sweatshirt.

Yes, you've guessed it. I leant forward to put paint on the brush and my new smartphone did a graceful double somersault leap that would have been a credit to an Olympic diver out of my pocket into a four-litre pot of red paint. It was completely submerged.

That was just the start of the problem. I had, of course, to then plunge my hand into the paint to retrieve the phone, in the process getting red paint everywhere. On my clothes and on the floor (which, fortunately, was lino not carpet).

Such was my over-confidence at tackling this small job that I didn't have any cleaning cloths within reach either, so I had to wait until the paint had stopped dripping from my hand before I could go and get some to start the clean-up process.

The cleaning took some considerable time but amazingly the phone still appeared to be working normally.

I spent the next hour cleaning a mobile that looked as though it was a prime exhibit in a court case involving a chainsaw massacre.

The similarity to gore didn't end there. Presumably because paint, like blood, is thicker than water it didn't appear to have penetrated the innards of the instrument.

About an hour after my laborious clean-up of the outside of the phone I was congratulating myself on a lucky escape when the instrument suddenly went into a mysterious download mode - and stayed there.

Later that day, somewhat shamefacedly, I returned to the shop where I purchased the phone a few weeks ago and regaled them with the details of my accident and the fact that after being dunked in four litres of paint it had strangely stopped working properly.

I was told the phone had gone into "factory mode", which I assume is telecommunications equipment equivalent of "shock".

The young assistant took the phone to a technological guru out the back of the shop and returned 10 seconds later with the prognosis.

"It's stuffed," I was advised brusquely. The young woman had obviously had no training in grief management and made no attempt to break the news gently by using delicate technical terms.

So my next destination was our insurance company. There I received a somewhat more sympathetic hearing and my claim for a new phone was processed; all relatively painlessly, except for the reminder that I would have to pay a $200 excess.

In an impressive display of efficiency I was told by a very nice insurance representative that I would be able to pick up a new phone at a local store within 24 hours. Obviously smartphones are easier to replace than quake- damaged houses.

When I got home I still felt slightly small-changed by the lack of interest shown in my phone at the shop. So, because a new mobile was now in the pipeline, I decided I had nothing to lose by conducting my own investigation into the paint-spattered instrument.

I removed the back and, seeing very little evidence of paint damage, removed the battery and then replaced it again. The phone suddenly sprang to life. Everything seemed to be working perfectly.

I left it a few hours to make sure this wasn't just a case of temporary remission but the phone appeared to have recovered.

Not wishing to be a perpetrator of insurance fraud, I rang the company and advised them they could ignore my claim of a few hours earlier.

Lesson three: Never make hasty decisions.

About 20 minutes after making that call to the insurance company (on a landline phone) I discovered that I could not hear incoming calls on my mobile. It appeared everything about the phone was working admirably - except the most vital and primary aspect of a phone, the speaker.

My hearing is not the best these days in any case, but callers on this phone would have had to use the video link to communicate with me by sign language.

Once again I called the insurance company. This time to reinstate the claim I had cancelled less than half an hour earlier.

So now I have a brand new smartphone, which is infinitely better at receiving incoming calls than my newly-dubbed Dulux (rather than de luxe) phone.

And I'm still proud of myself for having been completely up front with the insurance company about the temporary recovery of my original phone, even if they did begin to wonder about my sanity when I had to call them back to confess it was "stuffed" after all.

One thing is for sure, if I had been suspected of making a false insurance claim I would have undoubtedly been caught red-handed.

The Timaru Herald