I picked up my iPhone late one afternoon and saw that the zoom function was stuck. This is a rectangle that a user can move around on the screen, to enlarge text or images.

This had happened before. I reminded myself to find out if there was a way to disable zoom. Then I held the buttons necessary to restart my phone.

When the home screen reappeared, the zoom box was still firmly in place. Even worse, a voice was emanating from the phone in rapid-fire cadence.

I sensed trouble ahead.

Though I grew up with rotary dial phones, I am firmly attached to my iPhone. I don’t just text and talk on it; I watch news shows and then relax to calming music and stories, through the Headspace app. It’s my alarm clock, research engine and yoga teacher.

The cellphone has become more essential than ever during the pandemic. Two words: curbside pickup. Also, when I go to the dentist, I text the staff that I have arrived. I used to bring a book with me to appointments, but now I don’t want to set it down anywhere. All the magazines have disappeared. I distract myself by reading on the Kindle app.

I’m a librarian. So I swallowed my panic and Googled.

I found possible solutions. None worked. I called Apple Support.

It was 7 p.m. I talked to a nice man who assured me he could solve my problem. But eventually we reached the point where the only option was to erase and reset the phone. I was fine with that; I save everything to the cloud.

But when I plugged my phone into my MacBook Air, I received a message that I needed to unlock my phone to access the USB port.

I could not unlock my phone. That was why I was on the phone with Apple Support.

That’s when Mr. Nice Guy said the words no one in central Maine wants to hear in winter during a pandemic on the Monday of a work week: “You need to go to the store.”

Silent scream. Not the Apple store in South Portland. No!

My misery was fleeting. I could go to Best Buy, on the other side of the river here in Augusta. Mr. Nice Guy said they didn’t take reservations.

“Take your case number with you in case they want to refer to it.”

I breathed a sigh of relief. An hour had passed, my phone was still stuck, but now I had hope.

The situation was odd. The phone was still working. I was getting news notifications. In the morning, my alarm went off. But the screen was 98% percent unresponsive. I could swipe up to get to the passcode entry screen, and I could tap the numbers, but nothing registered. At one point, I was able to access the camera because there’s an icon on the bottom of the home screen.

The zoom rectangle was still there, and periodically the deranged voice would burst forth. Luckily, I could reduce the volume to its lowest level so I didn’t have to listen to it.

I was at Best Buy shortly before the 11 a.m. opening time. Only one other person was waiting (I had worried there would be a line), although several people arrived after me. We slowly filed in and were guided by a host to our destinations.

“You want the Geek Squad,” she said.

I greeted the guy behind the counter. “Apple Support sent me,” I said. “My phone is frozen.”

“Do you have a reservation?”

“He told me you don’t take reservations.”

“Who?”

“The guy at Apple.”

“Well, this is Best Buy, not Apple, and I have a reservation coming in.” Then his eyes softened above his mask. “I’ll take a look at it and if it’s a quick fix, I can do it.”

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

“Oh, and by the way, I’ve tried restarting it 15 times. And if you need to erase it, that’s fine.”

He studied the phone. He tapped it without success. “The zoom and the voiceover are stuck.” He thought for a moment. “There’s a fix for that.”

The Geek Squad member quickly pressed the start button three times and handed me the phone. “Put in your passcode,” he said.

Voila. I was back in.

He showed me what to do if it happened again.

“What do I owe you?” I asked.

“Nothing.”

“Well, then, how about this?” I curtseyed. He laughed.

I floated out of the store on one of painter Bob Ross’ happy little clouds. No Apple Store in the mall. I’d only been phone-less for 20 hours. The sun was shining.

To be fair to Mr. Nice Guy, he couldn’t see my screen. Then again, why did the Geek Squad know about that simple fix but Mr. Nice Guy didn’t? Also, my research had not turned it up either. True, I didn’t search for voiceover, because I didn’t know that was the source of the garbling, but the three-taps fix would have given me the option to turn off voiceover or zoom.

No matter. My phone works. One part of my world is restored to order.

These days, that’s huge.

Liz Soares welcomes email at [email protected]


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