The Pocket Lint Theory & Update from New Zealand

Sunrise view of Dunedin Harbour from the farmhouse

Sunrise view of Dunedin Harbour from the farmhouse

by ERIK ORTON

We’ve had some pretty epic experiences lately as we’ve transitioned from house sitting in Hawaii to farm sitting in New Zealand (pictures below). But the thing that’s been on my mind a lot is pocket lint.

When traveling internationally, little things can matter a lot. Some examples include: having cash in the native currency, having cell/data service, knowing the right word (“togs” = “swimsuit” in NZ).  I suppose it should come as no small surprise that I was really struggling when my phone wouldn’t charge. I rely on it a lot. I use it for maps, finding a grocery store, buying bus tickets, and communicating in real time, just to name a few. So when my phone stopped taking a charge, I was distressed.

At night—if I connected with our best lightening cable and set it ‘just so’ and didn’t touch it all night—it would charge and be ready for the next day. But then I couldn’t count on charging it throughout the day because I couldn’t leave it ‘just so’. I had to be out and about using it. So I would resort to “low energy” mode first thing in the morning. I would switch to Airplane mode while driving.  And I was judicious about turning off Wi-Fi whenever I knew there was no signal. These are all fairly standard energy saving techniques when trying to extend a phone’s battery charge throughout the day. So then what?

My first-world-problem distress was further compounded by the fact that we’re in South Island, New Zealand and—shockingly—there are no Apple stores here. Right?! I knew getting a new charge cable would not solve my problem, because I’d already tried several. And I would have to fly to a different continent to get it serviced. And I didn’t want to pay for a new one. My refurbished iPhone 6S that is two and a half years old should still work, despite “planned obsolescence” (don’t get me started on this last bit). So I went to the internet.  My first few searches came up empty. But then I came across what I’m calling the pocket lint theory.

The Pocket Lint Theory: you keep your phone in your pocket. Over time pocket lint creeps into the charging outlet of your phone. As you plug in your phone to charge, the cord packs the lint into the base of the charge outlet. Enough of this makes it impossible for the charge cord to seat properly and connect with the charging nodes. Everything else with the phone can be working just fine, but a little pocket lint can get between me and a fully charged phone.

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I found a small bladed knife and scraped at the base of my phone charging outlet. I was surprised how much black and grey crud crumbled out on the desk where I was performing this crude surgery. I scraped until I’d fully scratched the itch. Then I warily connected a charger to my phone. Had a just ruined the charging outlet? Was I a victim of another YouTube conspiracy? Was my phone actually more damaged than I thought?

Right away, my phone lit up with a green battery. Whoa! I couldn’t believe it. It worked. I unplugged it and tried it again. It worked again. I went to the car and connected it to the charger in the car. Same success. 

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I’m ashamed to admit the wave of relief that swept over me. I am pathetically reliant on this little device for so much of my connection to the world. That said, I was reminded that, no matter how powerful the device and everything it could access, a little pocket lint could shut the whole thing down. It reminded me to attend to the small things. Keep things clean. If there is crud accumulating in my life, whether it’s a relationship, my work or my health, let alone my technology, a little time to clean it up can make all the difference. Now I can truly enjoy New Zealand! (just kidding)


Here are some highlights from our time in New Zealand thus far:

Playing at the fundraiser book sale event for the Regent Theatre in downtown Dunedin.

Playing at the fundraiser book sale event for the Regent Theatre in downtown Dunedin.

The Regent Theatre, Dunedin.

The Regent Theatre, Dunedin.

Morning light from our room here at the farm.

Morning light from our room here at the farm.

The farmhouse at Tayler Point.

The farmhouse at Tayler Point.

Emily feeding the horses.

Emily feeding the horses.

Walking the sheep’s feeding paddocks.

Walking the sheep’s feeding paddocks.

Emily and I climb this hill each morning and watch the sun come up.

Emily and I climb this hill each morning and watch the sun come up.

Cooking in the kitchen with friends.

Cooking in the kitchen with friends.

Delicious birthday cakes prepared from scratch with love.

Delicious birthday cakes prepared from scratch with love.

Moonrise over the Harbor.

Moonrise over the Harbor.

Bea, Billy and Lily all regard each other.

Bea, Billy and Lily all regard each other.

Feeding nuts to the sheep.

Feeding nuts to the sheep.

Outside our front window tankers make their way in and out of the harbor.

Outside our front window tankers make their way in and out of the harbor.

Paper machét seals in the Midwinter Festival parade.

Paper machét seals in the Midwinter Festival parade.

Icebergs and penguins make their way around the center of Dunedin in the Midwinter parade.

Icebergs and penguins make their way around the center of Dunedin in the Midwinter parade.

Emily watching the fire dancers at the Midwinter Festival.

Emily watching the fire dancers at the Midwinter Festival.

Japanese drummers playing for the fire dancers. Visit  my Instagram feed  to see videos of the fire dancing.

Japanese drummers playing for the fire dancers. Visit my Instagram feed to see videos of the fire dancing.

Fireworks to cap off the evening.

Fireworks to cap off the evening.

Carousels for the kiddies.

Carousels for the kiddies.

Eli about to have hydrogen ignited in his bare hand. Visit  Emily’s feed on Instagram  to see the video.

Eli about to have hydrogen ignited in his bare hand. Visit Emily’s feed on Instagram to see the video.


And in case you missed it, we were thrilled for Seven at Sea to get a shout out in The New York Times. It was listed as the top travel book in the Summer 2019 Book Review.

SJ played it cool when we she saw her picture in the NYTimes.

SJ played it cool when we she saw her picture in the NYTimes.