That time Apple fried my phone with its own update

Few things make me want to punch my way through a chain of hornet’s nests wearing nothing but my jockey shorts than cellphones.

Excuse me. Smartphones.

I don’t know what’s so smart about them.

The devices inspire the dumbest behaviors in their users: texting while driving, talking while driving, the use of emojis, and the propagation of people drinking Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice while skateboarding.

They turn our children into zombies who mindlessly scroll through pictures of videos for uncounted hours.

I could live with that if the devices were good at making and receiving phone calls.

Of all the things these miracle devices do – send texts, make videos, take pictures, launch tactical nuclear strikes – the one thing that it’s in the title – phone – they are exceptionally bad at.

I have a 5G device.

I don’t know what that means.

Nobody knows what that means.

But marketing people have convinced everyone that they need maximum “G.”

Not my dad, the retired east Des Moines printer. He was fine with 4G. 5G “is too much ‘G,’” he told me a few years ago during the Super Bowl.

Of course, he just got a new phone with 5G.

Turncoat. I’ll never forgive him.

My 5G device worked fine. It made phone calls perfectly well if I was outside standing within 30 years of a cell tower.

If I was inside, it was a crapshoot.

Oh well.

By the time I’m inside for the day, I don’t want any more contact with the outside world except for maybe the DoorDash Driver.

Then the media hopped on a big, scary story about a virus to end all viruses. It would wipe out our phones, delete our photos and videos, and exterminate our bloated contacts lists.

Get vaccinated at once or blood will be on your hands, maybe your own.

Did I say vaccinated?

I meant “updated.” Vaccines are wonderful. Get as many as you can as often as you can. Tell ‘em Big Dan sent ya.

Anyway, like every other drooling mope in the throngs of the mass media fear machine, I updated my software.

After that? No bars.




It wouldn’t make telephone calls. I could receive texts, but only from other iPhone users.

This meant something ghastly, a horror I barely dared admit to my own shattered soul: I would have to go to a cell phone store.

I screwed up what amounts to courage in an obese 47-year-old man with arthritic knees and trundled into the local cell phone store for my brand of service.

I stood there hunched over my walker waiting for service.

I struck up a conversation with a man who said he checked into the place with it was a little Italian ristorante sometime in late 1979. He was still waiting for his breadsticks.

The lady on the other side of me wanted to replace her phone. Someone had thrown it and broken it.

“It was a very expensive mistake,” she said.

She made no over indication, but I suspected the small human in a purple dress fidgeting in her lap may be involved.

Then again, the kid was quiet, played with her white pony with unicorn hair, while her mom bought a replacement phone in a shade of purple that was pastel enough to qualify for the coating of an Easter-themed M&M.

The customer service guy who waited on me was named Jarod. I told him the situation. He pulled off my protective case, jabbed a pin into the side of my iPhone, and said, “Your SIM card is fried.”

I don’t know what a SIM card stands for.

I don’t suppose anyone does.

Apparently, they’re vital to the smartphone being about making and receiving telephone calls.

I asked him how he could tell.

He showed me my SIM card, a thin thing that I would describe as a microchip, but I suppose it isn’t micro enough.

“She how it’s silver,” Jacob said.

Yeah, I said.

He took a new SIM card out of the package. It was a dull gold.

“It’s supposed to be like this,” he said.

The actual frying of the SIM card was likely caused by the Apple update that was supposed to prevent a computer virus from screwing up my phone.

Smartphones have a strong grip on irony. I will give them that much.

He swapped out the SIM card and did some other jiggery pokery to restore my phone.

This had gone better than I had expected.

“Hey, Jarod, since I have you here, I’ve had this problem with my contacts,” I said. “They keep multiplying. Some of the names are repeated 12 times in my address book.”

Jarod looked at it.

“I’ve seen this once before,” he said. “It’s a software thing. That’s a question for Apple, which means …”

I held up my hand.

“Stop right there,” I said. “Young man, I think you were about to say Apple Store to me.”

I don’t like to use the word hate. Many times we say “hate” when it’s just an inconvenience or a snap reaction to something that made us angry.

But I hate the Apple Store. I hate fluorescent lights turned up to “induce stroke.” I hate that they make you sit on benches and make you watch commercials for their new stuff while they dawdle along to fix the product you’ve brought in that was likely fouled up by their own inability to send proper updates.

Most of all, I hate the smugness the corporation that depends on Chinese child slave labor to make these devices has to call their customer service people “geniuses” who work at a “genius bar.”

Jarod explained the Apple Store was the only place I could get my question answered.

I told him that if he said the Apple Store was the only way for me to get into heaven, I’d have to think seriously about changing teams.

Jarod laughed and handed me back my now-working phone. I drove home in silence, a shudder stuck between my shoulders at the thought of narrowly missing a trip to the Apple Store.

Middle School Teacher Daniel P. Finney writes a column for the Marion County Express.

Daniel P. Finney wrote for newspapers for 27 years before being laid off in 2020. He teaches middle school English now. He writes columns and podcasts for, a free, reader-supported website. Please consider donating $10 a month to help him cover the expenses of this site.
Post: 1217 24th St., Apt. 36, Des Moines, 50311.


  1. Nicola Mendenhall says:

    You are a good writer!


  2. littleoldlady72 says:

    I truly think there should be a new Uber category, called “I’ll take it in the shorts for you” and they will take your phone in to the Apple store and let the gremlins do their worst. They will bring it back to you, and you will reward them with gratitude via the app, which will now work, because of your new SIM card.


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