Sunday, February 22, 2004, at 03:48PM

By Eric Richardson

Tonight, getting out of my car at church,I heard a sound of gravel as my feet hit the pavement. It was dark and raining, and I thought the sound to be just some loose stones underfoot.

In reality, the sound was my phone hitting the ground.

At the start of the trip I had been on the phone with Kathy, figuring out where to pick her up. I had eventually placed the phone in my lap, it being awkward to put it back in my pocket while seated. There it had stayed until my arising bounced it out into the cold and wet outdoors.

I found it sitting there when we returned to the car. By that point it didn't surprise me. I sort of figured that had been the case. My phone was lying on the ground, face up, button-illuminating lights shining but nothing on the display. I picked it up, removed the battery, and set it down in my car.

The parts of the phone I can touch feel pretty dry now. When I put the battery back into the phone and press the power button, it does indeed turn on, find the network, alert me that the time needs updating, and can even tell me that I'm receiving a call. As of yet none of the buttons work, and it doesn't seem to want to vibrate.

August of 2001 I got pushed into a pool with an Ericsson T28 World in my pocket. It vibrated as I hit the water, then went dead. I got out, toweled it off, and gave it a shot. I think it vibrated as if it were turning on, and that was it. The next day I went and got a new phone.

The T28 wasn't done, though. A day or two later I tried it again, and it went a little farther. A couple days after that, it would start up completely. Eventually the phone ended up working just as well as it did before, and a friend used that phone for months.

Hopefully the T616 shows the same resilience.