Kate and I go out for dinner that night and even though I know she’ll tease me about it mercilessly, I tell her about meeting Chris at Apple, which is the only good thing to come out of the phone-in-toilet-gate. “Omigod, that’s fantastic!” she gushes. She shakes her head. “How do you meet guys so easily, Sam? You’re terrible at it. It’s so unfair.”
“I’m terrible at it?”
“You can’t seem to ever tone down your geekiness,” she says. “Men hate women who are smarter than them. I’ve told you that a million times.”
I’m Kate’s official “project.” We met in our freshman year of college, when the housing lottery went berserk and placed us together as roommates. I was majoring in engineering because I loved math and I thought there were the most practical job prospects in engineering. I hadn’t discovered make-up yet, my hair was mousy brown, and I thought it was entirely acceptable to wear the T-shirts announcing that I participated in the Math Olympiad. Kate, undeclared until practically her senior year, already had her eye on the fashion magazine where she’d later work, and she decided on day one that she was going to “fix” me. And help me get my first boyfriend.
Kate says I’m still a work in progress. I’m about a hundred times more stylish than I was when I was 18, but deep down, I kind of miss having the freedom to be a geek sometimes. But Kate’s right—guys don’t go for that. They like the airheads. Kate’s a smart woman but she’s got the airhead act down pat.
“Well, don’t worry, nothing’s going to happen with Chris,” I tell her.
“I don’t know, because now when he thinks of me, he’s just going to think of me dropping my phone in the toilet?”
Kate swats me on the shoulder. “You told him that? What’s wrong with you?”
“I’m an idiot around guys I really like, that’s what’s wrong with me.” I frown. “You think if I wait like a month, he might forget?”
“Not a chance,” Kate says.
I’m hoping she’s wrong, but the truth is, I know she’s right. Chris will always see me as the girl who dropped my phone in the toilet bowl then made him touch it. One cute single wheeler guy in a thirty mile radius and I blew it with him.
The next morning when I wake up, I run to my windowsill to check out my iPhone, hoping two days in the sun have dried it out. I press the button on the bottom, holding it down to get it to start, but the screen stays blank. I panic and scramble for Chris’s card. I have to dial his number using my landline, which I consider to be an indignity.
“Hello?” a sleepy male voice answers.
It occurs to me, a second too late, that it’s 6:30AM. Clearly this was Chris’s cell phone number and I’ve just woken him up. I consider hanging up, but I don’t have my number blocked, so I assume he’ll just call me right back. “Um, hi,” I say. “This is Samantha Young. I came by the Apple store the other day because, um, I dropped my phone in the toilet. I’m so sorry to be bothering you so early… did I wake you up?”
“Sort of, yeah.”
Is there anything left that I could do to make this guy hate me more? “I am so, so sorry.”
Chris has every right to scream at me and hang up, but instead he just yawns. “That’s all right. What’s up, Samantha? Phone still not working?”
“Unfortunately, no,” I say.
“Do you have any rice in the house?”
I walk into the kitchen (my phone is cordless at least) and check the cabinets. “Is instant all right?”
“Great,” Chris says. “Now you want to put the rice and your phone in a baggie and seal the baggie. Then leave it in the sun another day.”
Although Chris can’t see the skeptical look on my face, I guess he can tell what I’m thinking. “Rice is a desiccant,” he says. “It will draw any excess water out of your phone.”
“Okay…” I say. I hold up the Instant Uncle Ben’s and make a face at it.
“And if this doesn’t work…” Chris says.
“You’ll have arroz con telefono for dinner tonight.”
I don’t laugh. “I love my iPhone, you know.”
“I totally understand,” Chris says. “Sorry about the joke. Look, if it’s not working by tomorrow, just bring it in. I’ve got one more idea.”
“Okay, thank you,” I say, although I’m beginning to wonder if he’s just punishing me for making him touch a phone that was in the toilet.
I have trouble sleeping that night, although I’m not entirely sure why.
Patrick was always a really sound sleeper, so on my insomniac nights, which would happen a few times a month, I’d wander the apartment (his or mine). I read somewhere that if you don’t fall asleep right away, it’s better to just get out of bed. And do something boring.
My go-to boring activity is reading engineering books, but I don’t feel up to doing that tonight, so I flip on the television. On VH1, they’re showing Behind the Music for Vanilla Ice. Remember Vanilla Ice? If you got a problem, yo I’ll solve it. In high school, someone tried to make that the official slogan of the math team, but it actually got vetoed for being too nerdy, which says a lot.
I flip the channel and an episode of that old show Baywatch is on. You know, the one with all the female lifeguards in skimpy bikinis who run in slow motion? I’ve only seen a handful of Baywatch episodes in my life, although there’s one particular episode I remember very well:
I was twelve years old at the time. I was sitting on the couch with my brother Tom, fighting over the remote control. He wanted to watch Baywatch and I wanted to watch… I don’t know, Power Puff Girls? Saved By the Bell? I can’t even remember what I liked when I was twelve. And honestly, I don’t even know why Tom liked Baywatch because there were no Asian lifeguards to be found on that show. But he was a teenager and boobies are boobies, I guess.
Anyway, in this particular Baywatch, Mitch (David Hasselhof) was trying to save someone in the ocean, and he got thrown against the rocks repeatedly. And then in the next scene, he’s being told he’s going to spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair as a paraplegic.
That was the first time in my life that I felt that little tingling “down there” that the rest of the human race refers to as “arousal.”
And I’m just so embarrassed to admit that I felt it for David Hasselhof. I mean, come on. David Hasselhof? I know Germans love him, but seriously, he had a mullet. A curly mullet. Pretty weak.
I didn’t even know what it was, that’s how clueless I was. I was aroused, but I thought I had to pee or something. In any case, I stopped fighting for the remote control, and sat back and watched the rest of the episode, until Mitch miraculously moves his foot again. Hiss! Boo!
But man, that was a good episode. Really, really good.
And actually, I can think of something that I can do right now that will probably make me really tired…
I narrowly survive another day without iPhone. When I get home from work that day, I look at poor iPhone, sitting in that bag of rice. This will never work. My iPhone will never recover. And all my games of Words With Friends will go unfinished. This is just so, so sad.
The next morning is Saturday, but I wake up early anyway because I’m so nervous about my phone. I rip open the bag of rice and pull out iPhone. For a moment, I have a shred of hope that it will work, but that’s quickly dashed. The screen remains blank.
The Apple store opens at 8AM, so I arrive there at 7:45AM, clutching a cup of coffee in my hand and my iPhone-containing purse in my other hand. The store is still dark, but I’m not going anywhere. I will not budge from this spot.
I see Chris before he sees me. I see him wheeling down the street, his palms pushing against the wheels of his chair as he leans forward slightly. I love the way his legs react by jumping slightly when he hits bumps in the sidewalk. He looks completely adorable and I’m kicking myself for blowing it by mentioning the toilet phone, and then further blowing it by waking him up at six in the morning.
To my surprise, Chris seems to recognize me immediately. “Samantha, right?” he says. He slows to a stop in front of the door and fumbles in his pocket.
“Yes, that’s right,” I say. “Thanks so much for agreeing to help me.”
“I guess the rice didn’t work,” Chris says as he pulls a set of keys from his pocket.
“No, it didn’t.”
He fumbles with the keys, taking several seconds to locate the right one. He nearly drops the whole set while he’s trying to fit it in the lock, but catches them at the last second. And then once the key is in the lock, he can’t seem to get it to turn. “Sorry,” he says to me. “This damn lock always sticks.”
“No problem,” I say. Considering how much he’s fumbling, I can’t help but wonder if he has anything wrong with his hands too. But his handshake was firm, he seemed to be able to type without a problem, and he repairs small electronics products for a living, so I’m thinking his hands are okay. I have no idea why he’s having so much trouble figuring out how to turn a key in a lock.
He finally gets the door open, and I follow him into the empty Apple store. I watch the smooth movement of his chair as he swings around to behind the counter. He’s clearly been in a wheelchair for a long time. I can’t help but wonder how long. Ten years? Twenty years? His whole life?
He holds out his calloused palm. “Okay, let’s have the phone.”
I reach into my purse and pull out my dead iPhone. Before handing it over, I cuddle it protectively. “What are you going to do to it?”
“A hard reset,” Chris explains. “That sometimes works. If the computer doesn’t recognize it, then we can safely say it’s dead.”
I hand him my phone and watch him hook it up to his computer. He peers at the screen through his glasses and I look on anxiously. “Well?” I say.
“You gotta give it a minute, Samantha.”
I watch as Chris taps his fingers on the table, waiting for something to happen. To be honest, I’ve sort of given up hope. My iPhone is dead. I should just accept it and move on. Would an iPhone funeral be totally lame? Yes, it probably would.
“Hey, the computer found it,” he says.
My heart leaps in my chest. “Really?”
“Yeah, hang on…” Chris is clicking with his mouse and I’m straining to look over the counter. “Let me just reset it, okay?”
“Yes, of course…”
I wait, my fingers laced together, practically bouncing on my heels. Finally, Chris holds up my iPhone and I see the screen is bright. “Here you go, all fixed.”
“Omigod, you’re my hero!” I almost scream, yanking the phone out of his hand. A second later, I’m horribly embarrassed by my behavior. But I’m too happy by the phone’s revival to care. I can’t believe it’s fixed. “Thank you so much!”
“No problem,” Chris says, and I notice his ears are a little red. Is he blushing?
“It’s really nice of you to help me,” I say. “I mean, it’s better for you if I have to buy a new one, right?”
He looks a little uncomfortable for a minute and I start to wonder if I was wrong that the phone in the toilet thing scared him off. Maybe the whole reason he’s helping me isn’t because he’s a nice guy, but because he likes me. My brother Tom has theorized that no guy is actually nice, and that the only reason a guy ever helps a girl is because he wants to get in her pants.
“Well, I’m glad I could help you,” he says. “But you really should buy a new phone. That one is ancient.”
I shrug and cuddle my iPhone.
“I’m serious,” he says. “Can I show you the 4s iPhone? I bet you’d really like it.”
My gratefulness at his having fixed my phone is fading away as he launches into the sales pitch. I’m sure the new iPhone is great, but I’m happy with what I have. Now I’m beginning to feel like he didn’t help me to be a nice guy or to get in my pants, but rather, to make a sale.
Chris wheels out from behind the counter and leads me to a model of the iPhone 4s. “This is our latest model,” he says. Duh.
He picks up the phone and it immediately slips right out of his hand onto the floor. I freaking TOLD you that phone is slippery! Chris apologizes, then leans forward and picks it up, and I can see his hands are shaking just a little as he presses the button to turn it on. “So, um, let me show you how it works,” he says. “What’s your favorite kind of flowers?”
“My favorite kind of flowers?”
“Just tell me.”
“Azaleas,” I say. Although I’ve seen those commercials with Zooey Deschanel and Morgan Freeman a zillion times, I’m a little curious what he’s going to do.
Chris holds the phone up to his mouth and says. “Where is the nearest place to buy azaleas?”
The phone (Siri?) speaks up, “I have found fifteen florists near you. Would you like to see a list?”
“Pretty cool, huh?” Chris says. “So now if you want to buy… uh… what’s the flower called again?”
“Azaleas.” I stare at him. “You don’t know what an azalea is? How is that possible?”
Chris shrugs. “I don’t know. I’m a man and I’m straight, so… I don’t know that much about flowers.”
“Oh,” I say. There’s this long, awkward pause between us. Somehow I was hoping he’d suggest we head out and buy some azaleas. That would be really romantic. It’s actually a great idea for an iPhone commercial: some guy uses Siri to help him find a place to buy Zooey Deschanel some azaleas. But of course, that kind of thing doesn’t happen in real life, only in iPhone commercials maybe.
“So what do you think?” Chris asks me, raising his eyebrows. “Are you interested?”
Yes, but not in the phone…
“Not really,” I say, dropping my old phone in my purse. Honestly, I’m beginning to wonder why he bothered to help me out in the first place. “I’m happy with the phone I have. But I do appreciate your help.”
His face falls. “Okay,” he says. “Well, uh… if you change your mind, I hope you’ll come back here.”
Except I’m wondering if I can ask that new iPhone where the nearest alternate Apple store is located. Seems like something Siri would know.
To be continued.....
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Next: Sam explores internet dating