Our Origin Story: Part One – Broken to Pieces
Fixing somebody’s smartphone in their home can be a very intimate setting. In this relaxed environment, my clients often feel comfortable enough to start discussing my career choice. “Did you go to school to learn how to fix iPhones?”, is a question I get often. The good thing about getting the same question again and again is you can formulate the perfect answer: “Yes, I did go to school,” I say with a straight face. “I went to the U of Tube. It is a very exclusive club,” – it usually takes a few seconds before the joke sinks in and we share a laugh. Ok, so I like to have fun with my clients. Guilty as charged. And yes, I watched a lot of videos on YouTube - but what is the real story on how we came to be one of the most recognizable cell phone repair shops in Vancouver?
The year was 2010. The mild winter in Vancouver was beginning to thaw yet there I was: left out in the cold and unemployed. At the time, the economic recession hit the videogame industry pretty hard and companies were shutting down left, right and center. I found myself out of my career job as a 3D character artist – a tenure I had spent the past five years cultivating. There were few prospects left in my field but, despite all that, I was young, brimming with confidence and feeling invincible. Who wouldn’t want to hire somebody who used to make Nintendo games for a living?
As it turns out, the answer was nobody.
Of course, I didn’t know this at the time and you couldn’t tell much had changed in my life – I was spending my (compensation) money like I was still gainfully employed. Days later, when I broke my precious original iPhone that you couldn’t even buy in Canada, I immediately bought a brand new iPhone 3GS. I won’t drop my phone again, I thought. I don’t need a case, I convinced myself. I knew there was nobody that was even doing iPhone repair in Vancouver back then, so I would just have to be extra careful.
Two weeks later, I found myself at the then Rogers Arena watching my beloved Vancouver Canucks faceoff against the Chicago Blackhawks in the playoffs. Now remember, this was the year prior to when we made that epic run to the Stanley Cup Finals. This was the year that we got spanked. After a terrible loss at the hands of our greatest rivals, I left the stadium dejected, feeling broke and empty. It was at that time when my brand new iPhone fell out of my hoody pouch and landed face first of the pavement going across the Cambie Street Bridge. I picked up my phone reluctantly. I couldn’t bear to turn it around for fear I had destroyed my brand new iPhone and foolishly thrown away even more money that I really couldn’t afford to lose. With a deep breath, I mustered up the courage and slowly turned the iPhone display to face me. It was completely shattered.
That gif is a pretty accurate depiction of what actually happened next. I was at my lowest low: an inconsolable broken man with an irreparable broken iPhone. I had no job, my severance cash was dwindling and now I had to spend a ton of dough on another smartphone. My friend who I was with on this fateful night argued that maybe I could find somebody to repair my cell but I knew from my previous broken device that repairs were either incredibly expensive or non-existent. My phone could not be fixed! My life was over. This was the beginning of the end. As it turns out, this was actually the beginning of my new life as a cellphone repair technician - I just didn’t know it yet.
After picking up the pieces the next morning, I took my friend’s advice and renewed my hunt for a reasonably cheap iPhone repair in Vancouver. Just like before, almost nobody had the ability or parts to fix my cell. The best quotes I got were equal to what I had paid for the phone with a Rogers contract. How expensive could the parts be, anyway? Then it struck me: maybe I could just buy the glass digitizer and fix it myself!? Game on.
I scoured the internet and phoned around to local phone repair shops but not much came up when you Googled “iPhone repair Vancouver” back then. Somehow, I lucked out and found this hole-in-a-wall store on Kingsway selling an OEM glass panel for $50 (of course, it ended up being a cheap aftermarket part, but that’s another story). I hurriedly rushed down to the shop and picked up my new glass repair kit, complete with some simple tools, adhesive strips and a suction cup. A couple of quick YouTube instructional videos later and I was ready to fix my iPhone! And I was completely terrified.
Within seconds of setting up for this ill-conceived surgery, I realized I was not ready to fix my iPhone whatsoever. Simple instructions on how to physically open my device proved fruitless (that suction cup doesn’t work on cracked glass!). The screwdriver was not magnetized making the management of these miniature screws next to impossible. Parts inside the phone tenaciously clung together whereas in the video they just glided apart like butter on a hot pan. The instructional videos appeared so easy, it made me question their intentions. Was this a sinister plot to have me brake my phone further and be forced to buy even more parts from their online store? Years later, I still believe this to be the case. After the most stressful three hours in my entire life, I finally put my phone back together with a shiny new glass digitizer, less a screw or three. The moment of truth was upon me: I sealed the phone up, twisted in the security pentalobe screws and pressed down the power button in nervous anticipation. My screen flickered on in a static-filled white display with what can only be described as a black Rorschach test exploding out of the corner. I interpreted the ink blot pattern as utter defeat - I had broken the LCD display.
Months passed, the seasons changed and the nightmare of an iPhone repair was a distant memory. It seemed like a lifetime ago that I had broken my phone twice in two days (I was able to complete the repair with an expensive $150 LCD replacement screen). Now I was faced with the nightmare of trying to find a good-paying job in Vancouver’s distraught videogame industry. The best lead I received was at Relic Entertainment who offered me a job at 67% of the salary that I was used to. When I scoffed that I could get a better paying job being a city bus driver, they taught me a new word that day: they “rescinded” their offer of employment. If you saw me at the moment I read their rejection email in confused silence, read the definition in a dictionary and then saw my reaction, I’m sure the comedic timing would have been perfect.
Somehow, I maintained a relationship with a girlfriend throughout this period of my life and, though she stood by my side through it all (bless her heart), her patience was wearing thin (as was my Employment Insurance). She couldn’t believe I screwed up my only decent chance at work in my field over the past eight months. Without implicitly giving me an ultimatum, she gave me an ultimatum: “I think it’s time you got a job (or I’m leaving you, I think was implied)”. I had to confess: she was right. I mean if the 90’s didn’t raise her to say “No, I don’t want no scrub”, then Kanye West definitely sealed the deal in the 00’s. She wasn’t messin’ with no broke broke…and I knew it.
One sleepless night lying in bed, I starred aimlessly at the ceiling thinking about what skillset I had to offer the world and what the purpose of stucco was. My highly specialized skills as a 3D videogame artist were useless unless I was…well, making videogames. As this no longer seemed to be a viable option in Vancouver, I racked my brain as to what to do for work. I had grown accustomed to making a decent salary but unfortunately, I also became used to spending my money recklessly during my tenure as a graphic artist. This didn’t leave me with a whole lot of savings to get another education so going back to school was out of the question. I tried looking at other jobs but taking a minimum wage position or doing manual labour seemed like a giant leap backwards in life. I had to figure out another way but I didn’t know what else I could provide. And that’s when it hit me - the stucco probably dampens the sound to minimize echoing and improve acoustics! Then it hit me again.
What about that time I fixed my iPhone…?