Wednesday, February 2, 2011

A (wet) 1950s pager in a 2011 world

I've done it a few times.  First, when I was a third-year medical student.  Then again when I was an intern, and again as a third-year resident.  Well, I haven't done it since residency and thought those days were over....but then I did it again today.  Dropped my pager into the toilet.


I will leave to your imagination my verbal response to seeing my pager cruise gracelessly into the toilet bowl.  I fished it out, frantically popped out the battery, and rushed it to the sink.

I lovingly patted the pager dry with paper towels.  I frantically shook it to try and coax the water to dribble out.  But the streams of water continued to slosh around between the plastic cover and the green screen.

I drudged up the steps to our Telecommunications office, dreading having to relay this rather humiliating story.

"May I help you?"  asked the perky operator.

"Um, my pager got wet."  I didn't make eye contact as I handed it to him.

"Oooh, got the screen.  It's done for." 

I silently thanked him for not asking precisely how it got wet.

"Here you go."  I accepted the new pager and clipped it on my waist.  "Have a good day, doctor."

Am I fundamentally irresponsible, to have sent so many pagers on an unintentional swimming trip?  Or are fat, bulky pagers prone to hurdling off a slouched white coat pocket (or a dropped pair of pants) an antiquity in an age of iPod nanos?

Wikipedia has a cool link in its reference section to the very first pager, introduced in 1950.  ( #2 in reference section)  Let's just say that they haven't changed much since then.  Certainly the fundamental functioning of pagers hasn't needed much of an update, but what about the physical design?  Why do pagers in 2011 look nearly identical to those from 1950?  I can't think of too many technologies I could say that about.  Surely a sleeker, smaller pager would be highly accepted by professionals. 

A sleeker, smaller, and waterproof pager, that is.


  1. lq2m
    "Swimming trip" Good phrase. My mom's phone tends to "go swimming" in her water glass. I can't for the life of me figure out how she's managed to do that more than once. A toilet has a lot larger opening - easy to see how it could happen every now and then.

    Be thankful it wasn't one of those toilets with an automatic flush :)

  2. You're not alone, but as a communications technician, I straight up ask if the pager or radio has been dropped in the toilet. I tell the person that it's okay, but please tell me the truth. I don't want to touch a pager that's been dropped in the toilet anymore than you want to own up to it. Next time your pager takes a fall into the bowl, just put it in a bag. No need to save it. The pager's life is over, and that's okay. No worries.

  3. Oh, poor pager. Hehehe. The lesson here is that pools and pagers aren't exactly the perfect match. Oooh, that's a very interesting link you found.

    -Cora Bullock

  4. It's okay, Jennifer, you're not the only one who accidentally shoots gadgets into the toilet, like your pager, for example. If you want, you can place your gadgets in water-proof cases so they won't get wrecked when dropped in water. It would be better, though, if you just make it a habit to place your pager somewhere you won't hit it accidentally.

    Pathane Wadler