When you have a tech repair kiosk in a mall, you encounter all kinds of people. The excuses they have for a damaged cell phone can be surprising. Most often, someone runs over their phone because they dropped it before getting in the car. They also tell me that it somehow ended up in the garbage disposal. No kidding. More than a few get it wet. The most outrageous story was a fellow who brought me his broken device because he claimed that he had dropped it in the river when panning for gold. Now I just didn’t believe him. Who does this nowadays and we aren’t in Fairbanks, Alaska. He had time on his hands because he wanted to tell me all about it. He was a good storyteller, and whether or his tale was true, I was engaged and wanted to know more about the subject.

I didn’t even know that there were such things as gold panning kits (you can see them here) and that they are rather state of the art these days. In the old mining era, you used a metal pan and a wood framed sieve. It was very basic, but it worked. The same principle is used, he explained, except that materials are sturdier and more modern. I asked a million questions about how he did it, where, and if he ever struck a lode. He laughed about that last one, stating that he would never tell. He didn’t want a rush on his favorite spot. Really! Is there gold in them thar hills in my neck of the woods. I doubt it. Maybe he was far away on a vacation, but he implied that he often went panning.

He said it was his hobby and he most often went alone. He had a special gold panning kit he bought on line that came with ample instructions. He also saw a video on YouTube. Imaging learning this old craft on the Internet! I laughed. He was amusing, and I listened for an hour and got behind in my work. I didn’t care. Most of my customers don’t linger long enough to explain what happened to their phone much less give details about their personal life. I could picture him in a silly miner’s hat and old boots wading in a river amid a stretch of scattered rocks. In my mind’s eye I could see him sitting on a large boulder, surveying the scene before plunging the panning device into the water. Would bright shiny nuggets immediately emerge? Would it take all day?

I thought I would never tire of the answers to my questions and had to beg off, so I could go back to work. I told him to come by soon and bring the panning kit as I wanted to see one for myself. No, I wasn’t going to indulge, but curiosity gets the better of me sometimes.