The True Story Of How Losing The Most Important Thing Taught Me How To Be An Adult


Some people think that you become an adult upon turning 18 years old, or at least 21 when you can legally drink. Others say it’s when you get your driver’s license. Now, I don’t want to argue semantics, but I firmly believe that the milestone of adulthood, for me, was my first time.

My first time putting my phone out of commission the night before the first day of college and having to independently deal with the consequences of my stupidity, I mean. In the absence of my phone, I deployed such resourceful thinking—of which no one, especially not I, would’ve believed me capable—that I felt an overwhelming urge after-the-fact to sit down and pen a pretentious college application essay. (Naturally, I didn’t, but you have to admit it would’ve been the logical progression.)

School started on the 24th of August. Thus, the 23rd was filled with kickoff events, such as “Gone to Business” for my major and “Gone to Texas” for all freshmen. “Gone to Business” was essentially a second informational orientation—it must not have been terribly effective, because my clearest memory is of the tacos—from 6-8 PM. “Gone to Texas” came right afterward, a celebration of incoming students.

Or at least, I assume. I wasn’t able to go.

“Nicole, are you coming?”

“I’m too tired,” I said through a mouthful of taco.

Okay, so maybe I wouldn’t have gone anyway, due to my odd penchant for peace and quiet over being pressed into sweaty, shouting strangers. But, given what I ended up doing instead of toasting a new year with the rest of my class, there’s irony in having been “too tired” to go out.

Upon sliding out of our booth, I felt a coolness spreading against my back. The bottom of my backpack was wet. I unzipped the front, pulled out an array of promotional flyers and prizes from the event, and found that a water bottle I’d received half an hour ago was leaking. My phone was also lying at the bottom. It was slightly wet, like I had just been out in the rain, but after I dried it off with my sleeve, it seemed to function perfectly.

The moment I walked into my dorm, my phone screen began to break up into flashing, multicolored bars. Immediately, I turned it off.

Not even allowing myself a second to appreciate what a deep mess I’d gotten myself into this time, I resorted to the only one who has never let me down: Google. Short-circuiting iPhone LCD water, I typed. Fix water damage iphone. Wet phone home remedies.

What was frustrating was that most of the solutions I found were ones for which I didn’t have the resources. I’d only recently moved in and didn’t have desiccants, or white rice, or plastic bags, or even a working hairdryer. I barely had a paperclip to substitute for a SIM card remover, and that method failed anyway because the opening was jammed from the last time I’d dropped my phone. The phone repair stores had long closed. Everyone was at Gone to Texas, and I couldn’t call anyone for obvious reasons.

And then I found the answer. “Oh my God,” I whispered, racing to my small food stash. “Beef jerky!”

I had six small packs of emergency beef jerky, each with one tiny pack of desiccants. They would have to do. I tore them open, poured the contents out onto my one plate, and ate the beef jerky. (Which, now that I think about it, wasn’t an imperative step; I think I was just really hungry.) I placed the desiccants and my phone into the plastic wrapping from my roommate’s plates and sealed the top with twine. But my makeshift “bag” immediately started to tear.

Ignoring the fact that I hadn’t yet familiarized myself with campus (and, incidentally, had zero sense of direction), I barged out of my dorm and onto the streets to buy rice. How did I know which stores sold rice? I checked each possible one.

After purchasing a box of Minute white rice from CVS, I opened the container and shoved my phone in, grains spilling everywhere as I walked.

“Stay with me,” I pleaded with my phone. It didn’t respond.

I was beginning to think no one had noticed a girl frantically running around with a hand stuck into a box of uncooked rice until a guy approached me, to my surprise. (If I had been in his position, I certainly wouldn’t have encouraged me.) “Is that rice?”

“Yeah,” I answered and considered just leaving it at that and not elaborating. But I tilted the box toward him. “My phone got wet.”

He laughed. “Oh, I thought it was dorm food.”

I quickly excused myself after that. There really isn’t an easy way to recover a conversation once you realize the other party thinks you’re capable of snacking on uncooked rice. In public.

Once I returned to my dorm, there wasn’t much left to do but wait. I set and tested several alarms on my laptop, looked up directions to the repair store (so I could bring in my phone the next morning—I ended up waiting there an hour for the store to open), and spent the rest of the night imagining that I would never have a phone again.

But everything turned out fine. I didn’t miss any important texts because I recovered my phone and because I never get any. I came away with content to use for all the “tell me one interesting fact about yourself” icebreakers I encountered the next few days. And it turns out, not relying on Google maps forced me to quickly figure out how to navigate campus.

Yes, everything ended well. I have to admit, though, they’re right when they say—I’m using an ambiguous “they” here because there’s a good chance I just made this up—the way you start the year defines the rest of it.