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Ben Harvey: A sticky end

There is a growing fashion, in the world of online publishing (the self-same world, my dear, sweet, reader, into which you are currently dabbling your delicious little toes) to consider the news itself as being something newsworthy. This is currently affecting out worlds by stories about stories – ‘iPhone coverage reaches frenzy” being one example – and although some people think this is all good and useful I, personally, would rather take a garlic-crusher to my own eyeballs than consider penning something like that – news sites reporting about news always remind me of that rather sinister Greek symbol of the snake eating its own tail, which just goes to show that evolution blessed us with a gag-reflex for a reason.

As such the only mention of the iPhone from me this week will not be any essays on how to survive a night out camping outside your local Apple store (buy a piss-proof tent, buy a petrol-proof sleeping bag, don’t take a dump in the shopping-centre fountain) or on the etiquette of queuing once you’re in (avoid all eye-contact, lest someone talk to you) or indeed on how best to stump up the cash to pay for one (God gave you a spare kidney for a reason). No, the only mention that little slab of joy will get (apart from the two so far already made) will be just a note about its design, which means that, at least, it should be pretty easy to clean.

I am, I should just mention, quite a clean person. This isn’t to say that I’m cursed with hand-bleaching OCD, but just to say that I do the washing-up before the mould on it is granted the right of self-determination by the UN, and also that I do actually clean the oven a few times in any given year. One thing, though, that does rile me just a little is when my handset du jour gets caught by a random glancing stream of light that shows up the inevitable patina of eargrease that gets stuck to the screen of it.

Again, I should state here and now that, as a male in my 20s, I’m well past the stage of getting greasy skin. My teenage years were remarkably spot-free and so I’m at a loss as to where this crap comes from. Every single phone I’ve ever, ever had has accumulated it, the only difference, as time goes by, being that handset-designers apply less & less angularity to their products, if only to stop all the gunk building up in corners. Presumably this is why condoms aren’t square.

Anyway, I get it, you get it, everyone gets it. One swipe along your trouser-leg and it’s gone. Eargrease is obviously a massive and damning hazard to our industry, akin to cave-ins to coal-miners or to falling trees to lumberjacks and I’m sure that one day all us readers of will be stood in front of Parliament, waving placards and demanding our MPs protect us from this terrible, terrible curse but, and you must brace yourselves, now – there are worse things to get encrusted in your keys.

Imagine the scene – it’s last Saturday night. It’s a Halloween party. Fancy-dress is obligatory and I attend this extremely-enjoyable piss-up as one of my favourite disturbing characters, a chap from the League of Gentlemen called Papa Lazarou. After using a lot of Blue-Peter-style ingenuity to fashion my own top-hat (including – you’ve guessed it – a lot of double-sided sticky-tape) the rest of the costume was basically daubing myself in thick black stage make-up.

Me and stage make-up, by the way, are no strangers, given that I have been in…one or two films that…well. Let’s just say I’m not too proud of them. Anyway, the thing to remember when wearing make-up is that it’s a complete bastard to get off. So there I am, drinking & scoffing at this party, and I’m thinking – ‘mustn’t answer phone whilst ears are coated with shoe-polish, mustn’t answer phone whilst ears are coated with shoe-polish”, and all is well. Until the booze does what the booze always does, i.e., makes you forget important things (like where you live, why you shouldn’t accept sweets off of strangers & why not to clasp an expensive piece of electronics to your head when you’re painted up like a black & white minstrel).

I wake up the next day and my phone looks like an elephant’s shat on it.

It didn’t even look that bad after Glastonbury. It was sat there, on a shelf by my bed, covered in a cracked, dried crust that totally obscured what it was. It could’ve been anything, from an ingot of finest cannabis resin to being a slightly overdone brownie. Normally, though it’s the case that a quick swipe with a cloth, maybe some hot, soapy water and you’re fine. In this instance, though, I was finding out that hot, soapy water wasn’t even getting it off my face (nor, indeed, from out from my pillow).

Getting sudden, unexpected sloshes of water in your delicate electronic kit is worrying. And there’s no more worrying place for this to happen than in your handset (with the possible exception of your submarine’s engine), so you can understand why I was reluctant to take my much-abused little mobile into the shower with me. So I tried everything I could think of; chipping off the bigger lumps with toothpicks. Attacking it with a boot-brush. I even thought about ironing a piece of brown paper on top of it, like you do with wax stains, which was a magnificent plan foiled only by my lack of brown paper. And my lack of an iron, for that matter.

In the end, though, I had to bite the bullet. I had to traipse to the chemist and – after persuading the startled girl behind the counter that no, she wasn’t my wife now and that no, I wasn’t actually Michael Jackson and that yes, I would like some make-up remover, if at all possible, if it wasn’t too much bother, yes please thank you NOW! So you will be glad to hear that my face is now back to its normal pasty complexion and my phone does now look like a phone again, albeit one covered in bits of toothpick and with the numbers burnt off all the keys by the acetone

What did strike me about this whole tragic little episode was this one, simple fact – that women have to do this every bloody day…


  1. I find that isopropyl alcohol is great for removing all manner of nastiness from delicate electronics. If push comes to shove, you can plunge the whole device (sans battery) into a tub of the stuff.

    Buying it involves convincing a pharmacist that you’re not a tramp and that you’re not going to be imbibing its sweet, delicious nectar.


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