Sometimes Batteries Conspire Against You

There I was at a customer site, with what should have been just a few minutes worth of work ahead me. I pulled out my beloved CableIQ tester to make sure the cable I was about to use was in good shape, when IT HAPPENED. The tester wouldn’t turn on. And when I opened the battery compartment cover, I saw that the AA cells must have had a party and forgot to clean up after themselves because there was stuff everywhere. Gunky green-white stuff. A couple had exploded, and I suddenly felt both stupid and worried… stupid for having allowed this to happen to my own equipment, and worried that this not-cheap tester was ruined (thankfully it wasn’t, but you don’t always win this game.)

Same site. Pull out my equally beloved Samsung tablet to fire up iBwave Mobile for a quick verification survey.  And… it was also dead. This time I felt the same stupidity, with the added bonus of anger at myself for allowing this tool to also be out of juice when I needed it.

As I finished my work with other tools on hand, I got thinking. What if the battery issues with these two devices wasn’t just happenstance? What if- and shudder to verbalize it- what if my battery-powered devices were actually conspiring against me? What if there was a device-killing plot afoot to punish me for inattentiveness and neglect? Don’t get me wrong, I usually live in the real world, but the little voice in my head said “you better start checking your stuff out pretty quick for other battery issues. Maybe there is an evil plot afoot.” 

And so I got busy checking.

Let’s get right to the carnage:

  • Handheld GPS unit- destroyed by leaked batteries
  • Very powerful laser (that’s right, a frikin’ laser) used for point to point bridge work- destroyed by leaked batteries
  • Small cheapo shortwave radio- not destroyed, was able to clean it up and get it going again
  • Very expensive non-cheapo shortwave receiver- caught the battery leak just in time, before it started flowing for real
  • FRS radios (two sets) – three out of four had some battery leakage, salvaged all but did some damage to battery contacts
  • Big Mag-lite flashlight- destroyed
  • Small Mag-lite flashlight- destroyed
  • Other small Mag-lite flashlight- caught just in time

Not EVERYTHING I looked at had battery issues. I’m a gadget guy for work and play, so I have many, many battery-powered devices. A fair amount of my gear uses rechargeables, which helps the reduce the overall problem. But as you can see, I ended up losing at least a few-hundred dollars’ worth of equipment to my own neglect. You can certainly chalk this whole affair up to “first world problems”, and maybe throw out a snide “maybe you just have too much STUFF”. I would agree a bit on both points, but I also don’t want the point I’m trying to make to get lost.

My destroyed devices didn’t have to end up this way. And my unusable tablet didn’t let me down- I did. I now have a monthly reminder on my calendar to check my disposable-battery-powered  devices, and a weekly reminder to check charge level (and available updates) on all of my many tablets and laptops. And… I’m switching to rechargeable batteries where I can to lower my overall battery consumption.

I tell you my own sad story here so that you may hopefully avoid your own. Now, go check all those devices you’ve been ignoring for the last several months.

Tell me what YOU think.

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