The Ocean Ate My Cell Phone

Sage Knight

I like balance. Balance beams, walking on curbs, crossing the thick yellow pipe gate on the Top O’ Topanga fire road. A couple Sundays ago, I park on PCH, just north of the Porto Marina light, and head straight for the worn-down iron and cement water break, to walk along the top and watch the gentle waves crash into it, over it, around it.

If I go out far enough, I no longer see land. It feels like being on the bow of a boat.

Today kelp is everywhere. With each wave, one large, heavy piece rolls up over the end of the break before the tides pull it back in. The further out I go, the greener the cement, covered in long strands of sea grass (or whatever it is that attaches itself to and thus reclaims cement in the sea). I can only go so far. The combination of slick green plants and heavy rolling kelp won’t allow my feet to stand their ground. After a few minutes, my phone alarm sounds. It’s time to leave.

Back at the car, I check my pants pocket, but it’s empty. Still barefoot, I lock the doors, scramble back down the rocky incline and jog along the wet sand, scouring 200 or so yards of wet shoreline for a coral iPhone.

“Maybe it dropped along the sand,” I fantasize, in spite of a nagging visual of me hiking up my loose-knit palazzo trousers to walk along the water break.

Back at the break, I hastily remove my pants and place them on top, beyond the high tide line. Into the water I go, swishing my feet along the Ocean floor like kinesthetic search lights. The Ocean offers no visibility, and the waves get stronger. I speak to Her.

“So, you ate my phone, did you? Well, if anyone’s gonna take it, I’m glad it’s you.”

I’d give Her anything. In 2011, less than two years after separating, my ex announced he would no longer pay the agreed spousal support. I’d just registered for full-time courses at SMC. I went to the Ocean to pray.

“Would you help me get through January… please?”

Miracles happened. The next month I repeated the prayer. We continued in this way, the Ocean and I, while I built trust in myself and in Life that I did not need a man to survive.

“You don’t want my phone,” I say now. “It’s not good for you.”

And I mean it. I admit the first thought involved fear about lost calls, followed by photos I’d not saved, but all of this passed in seconds.

Stripped half naked and wading in water up to my chest, soaking my delicates and sweatshirt, I have two main motivations: one, I like to win games and right now I’m playing Find the Phone, and two, I cannot bear the thought that my lack of mindfulness, my failure to place a manmade piece of technological trash deep enough into a pocket for it to stay there, will cause harm to Mama O and her inhabitants. I’ve only recently learned of the cost in violence to women in the Congo for the procurement of the minerals required to produce the beast. I don’t want to add violence to the Ocean.

I wade in the water for 15-20 minutes, successfully fishing out a shell, a stone and an eight-inch cooked lobster tail. Then I give up, collect my pants and head back.

Forty yards ahead I see it. Lying face up in the liminal space between land and sea, where the waves come and the waves go, taking some things, leaving others. I pick it up and rinse it off, just as a handsome man crosses my path.

“Well, that’ll impress him,” I muse and state the obvious:

“I dropped my phone.”

“Oooh…” he says. “Put it in rice.”

Minutes later I am at Vons, pantless but wearing clogs and a dripping sweatshirt, certain I will be mistaken for the homeless woman I used to fear I’d become. I opt for Organic Thai Jasmine (in case I want to eat it) and head to the checkout stand. As I arrive the cashier leaves. The woman in front of me has just rescued a dog and forgot to look for piddle pads.

She tells me all about it. Still dripping, I listen, smile, open the rice bag and push my phone into the middle of the grains.

Three years ago, a phone slipped out of my back pocket into a (pre-used) toilet at Family Camp in San Mateo. The rice trick had worked then, but the phone had only been wet a moment. No, I did not eat that rice.

The cashier returns and the dog lady tells her that I’d like to buy some rice with a phone.

I pay and leave.

The next morning I fish out my virtual communication device/camera/GPS/possible government tracking instrument and attempt to return a text using voice command. Nothing. I try recording. Looks good but no playback. We’re not out of the water, so to speak. I go online. Apparently everyone and his grandmother has gone swimming with an iPhone. Answers abound and all say one crucial first step. Turn it off. Immediately. Oh. I call Apple and learn two things: I can mail the phone in and they’ll look at it, for $299.; two, the next available Genius Bar appointment in LA County is the following Saturday. I say thank you, put the phone back in the bag with every little “do not eat” silica packet I can find from my vitamin drawer, and wait.

The next morning the phone is fine.

Everything happens for a reason; often we choose what the reasons are. Here are mine: More time in the Ocean. Turn off the phone.

Happy Earth Day. Try this wonderful resource for free coastline/volunteer boat trips:


Sage Knight is a local ghostwriter. She and her animal companion, Shiloh, live at Top o’ Topanga and welcome heartfelt connection with you. She also gave birth on Earth Day, but that’s another story…


Sage Knight

Sage is alive and well, living at Top o’Topanga with Shiloh, the Golden Retriever. Visit her at

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