Wednesday, April 29, 2015


Water and technology don’t mix—you would think I would know that by now.

    When I was younger, in my last year of middle school, I acquired a hand-me-down flip phone—a Motorola of sufficient capabilities.  The gift was supposedly meant to provide me a method of communicating when I was away from home—to keep me safe.

    However, I quickly learned that phones are extremely dangerous.  From that moment on, the potential harm that loomed over my everyday operations was magnificent, and I was required by special edict issued by my parents (bless them) to carry the salvational device wherever I roamed, regardless of the availability of cell service—especially if I was going fishing, as I did most frequently, alone.

    Now, much of my childhood was spent wet-wading my home river—the Rivanna—even well outside of the traditional wet-wading season.  I had not yet acquired waders, and my too-eager-to-care childhood-self pushed on undeterred.

    One sunny spring morning, shortly after inheriting the phone, I made the bike ride and hike to the riverbank and rigged up my fly rod.  Keeping my phone in my shorts pocket had become a habit, and I dared not remove it.

    The river ran with the voluminous, blue-green lifeblood of spring.  The red maples were blooming; samaras twirled in the breeze.  Dogwoods and redbuds lit up the understory.  The smallmouth were pre-spawn, and hungry. 

    That day I caught and landed several large smallmouth on flies of my own creation.  I was satisfied to the core as I closed the book on the day, wading towards the bank as dusk settled.  Contentment met horrified disgust in a blind alley when I felt the blocky form of my phone clinging to my thigh in the right pocket of my soaked wading shorts.

    My immediate thoughts were “It’s broken.  But what?  I was being obedient!”  I dried the phone out after its four hour swim and used it to its full potential for another couple of years, marked by the occasional swim, before it was finally condemned.

    Midway through my high school career I graduated—to an iPhone, which proved to be just as dependable a fishing partner as my first.

    I woke up to a fiery sunrise and the chattering of birds one crisp November morning amid an upland tract of land in Georgia’s Okeefenokee swamp.  The night required no fly—a pleasant coincidence, as I was due in southwest Florida by nightfall and the mesh canopy of my tent allowed in enough dawn sunlight to awaken me sans alarm.  I packed my things, shouldered my kayak, and trudged towards the swamp.

    Nine miles into an early-morning paddle I was still relatively alone.  The birds were awake, but the alligators had yet to be lured onto land by the sun.  I snapped some sunrise pictures with my phone. 

    The swamp channel constricted, and out of the cypress trunks and wildflower backdrop emerged a shelter, with stairs and a deck, for the stretching of cramped legs.  As I planted my feet on the steps above the tannic water, my phone slid out of the unzipped pocket of my PFD, fell, and landed on its side, perpendicular to, and on, the stair stringer.

    I took several moments to calm my pulse and regain control of my trembling extremities before wiping sweat from my brow and thankfully retrieving the device, sliding it tenderly into my pocket.  It was on borrowed time.

    Just a month later, while emptying my pockets after a day of brook trout fishing, I fumbled the phone, and its screen shattered on river rock.  It remained usable.

    All of these incidents breathe positivity into my most recent lapse in technological competence.

    I stood knee-deep and wader-less in the cool waters of a foreign mountain brook trout stream.  Really, wild rainbows outnumbered brook trout.  So when I landed the first brookie, its picture was taken. 

    A half hour later, I came upon a picturesque waterfall and reached for my breast pocket.  Empty.  Contentment and disgust were up for round two. 

    I returned to the scene of the last photo to find the device face-up, wedged between two rocks in the tail of the pool, water rushing over it.  I retrieved it, sent a few warning messages to those who might be worried, and was then greeted by a black screen.  Three days later, it’s alive and riding shotgun.

    Looking back, I may need to make some adjustments.  I hear there is something called “adventure proof;” and although I have fortunately escaped a debt of several hundred dollars to the Apple and Motorola companies, I believe the concept worthy of my research.  My luck may be in short supply going forward. 

*Originally published in the Rural Virginian

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