Has to be a Better Way

I remember seeing a TV ad some time ago for an expensive watch. They wanted to stress that it was waterproof. People do value that benefit these days. It wasn’t good enough just to say that it was. They had to prove it. Visual images remain in the viewers’ minds longer and have a greater impact on their decision to buy something. So the commercial showed the watch being dropped in a swimming pool by a clumsy sunbather. It made the point. They could have just had the swimmer wear it, of course, but that would not have been as shocking. The shock passed when the camera zeroed in on the watch blissfully ticking away.

I think one of my professors saw this ad because all of a sudden we were assigned to conduct a study on waterproofing phones. We had six of the top, and most expensive, models and at some point we were going to film dropping them into an above ground pool in the vicinity. We would imitate that old commercial. We would show the phones working, slip them in the water, and then show the aftermath. We expected the phones to be like new after their dunking, but it didn’t happen. It turned out that one of the six would not operate as before. This was very unexpected. Most cell phones these days are waterproof unless they are a very old model.

We learned a sort of a lesson, and not just about waterproofing. We learned that expectations can be sometimes not be met. We then had to write copy for our little study and film and explain why being waterproof is important. How often are people near the ocean or a pool. How likely are they to fumble with their hands and drop the phone? One student mentioned that a person with a phone could be near a rain puddle and trip, sending it to a watery death. Maybe just being out in the rain would cause problems. Okay. I accept this possibility but doubted that rain would impair functionality.

We sent our study to the six phone companies hoping they would appreciate our efforts. They responded that this kind of student research is valuable and could lead to improvements in upcoming models. Using an above ground pool in someone’s backyard appealed to their need for a picturesque visual statement. And two weeks later we received a couple of packages. There was a new mobile phone for each of us.

Being a student doesn’t always have many perks like this. We were thrilled. We liked knowing that our study was not just classwork, but that it had meaning. Similar studies take place in the digital world I am sure. Maybe someday one of us would lead research of a similar kind. This shows that going to class can be very practical and have import for one’s future. We all hoped that ours would be bright and successful. The study symbolized where life could take us.