Autism · Family matters

What’s For Dinner? Baked Cell Phone and Steamed Dad

My son’s name is Rocco, but Conan the Destroyer would be more apt. The boy has an appetite for destruction, and he’s always hungry.

Rocco’s autism is a factor in his destructive behavior. He often uses items in inappropriate ways, like raiding my wallet and using the credit cards in an origami display (the plastic card in the cable box folds nicely, too!) or making a concoction of cinnamon and onion powder over the toaster (which makes for funky waffles.) Autism accounts for some of these behaviors, but I think even if Rocco were a typical kid he’d have a destructive streak. He likes to see how things are put together…and how they come apart.

Demolition Man

Electronics are a Rocco favorite. He toasted a not-so-Toughbook and destroyed several iPods. Wireless phones are a constant terror target. I knew trouble was brewing the afternoon I called my wife’s phone and Rocco answered. He was laughing wildly and I heard water running in the background.

My son thought it was funny bringing Mommy’s cell phone in the shower. What a sense of humor on that kid!

“Buddy?” I said. “Hey, Roc! Give Mommy the phone.”

He laughed and hung up. I called back but got no answer. I sent a text.

‘Roc’s got your phone. Not a toy!’

No reply…until I got home that night.

“Bad news,” my wife said, shortly after I walked through the front door. “Want it now?”

I didn’t, but my six-year-old daughter spilled the beans anyway.

“Rocco took Mommy’s phone in the shower,” she said. “Now it doesn’t work.”

This was bad news. Mom’s phone was a re-activated older model, because her new phone broke under “unknown circumstances.” The old flip phone had a cracked front screen, surrounded by mysterious teeth marks, but otherwise worked fine.

Until today.

Soggy, No Service

Now the phone was a soggy mess, the tiny space behind the screen filled with water, a lifeless aquarium.

“Did you put it in rice?” I asked. This wasn’t our first wireless phone to take a swim. We’d rescued submersed phones before by tossing them in a bag of rice, which absorbs the moisture.

“We don’t have any rice.”

What now? A hair dryer? That would be loud, tedious work. I am a self-proclaimed “Daddy Who Fixes Things,” and I try hard to live up to the title. But this was a tough fix.

phone in oven
Baked phones — call it delish!

“Maybe we could put it in the oven, bake it at, say, 100 degrees?” I suggested.

It was worth a try. We removed the battery and baked the phone for a few hours. We tried the phone later and the screen powered up, misted with internal condensation. The buttons still weren’t working, so we turned off the oven and left the phone in there overnight.

My wife tried it the next morning. The phone powered up and she ran through the menus, gave it a test run.

“Wow. Everything works,” she smiled. “You’re my hero.”

I felt like one, too. It’s not every man who can resurrect a drowned cell phone from a watery grave. Only a Daddy Who Fixes Things.

“There’s a new text message,” my wife said, clicking it open. “Yes, Rocco’s got my phone…no, it’s not a toy…”


Originally published in  Wayne TODAY Newspapers, September 2010.

Not all cell phone baking projects turn out well.

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