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“What would you do if your phone fell into a storm drain?”

by Prince Of Petworth May 26, 2017 at 1:45 pm 44 Comments

Photo by PoPville flickr user Peter Bjork

“Dear PoPville,

Yesterday, I was getting out of my car, and my phone was in my lap. When I got out, it fell out and right down a storm drain.

I spoke to DC Water, but they said they can’t do anything. So, what’s the story? Just give it up? Anyone know a teenage mutant ninja turtle?”

  • Anonymous

    Well, if I can actually still see the phone down there I would try to fashion some kind of long-handled grabbing device to try to fish it out. If the phone is not even in sight then I would probably go buy a new phone.

  • John

    You should reach out to the lizard people.

  • MadMax

    Call my insurance company and get a new one.

    • Ben

      What’s your policy #?

  • KPS

    Oh yikes. I feel for you, OP. Personally I would do whatever in my power I could do to retrieve it. I don’t make the kind of money that affords me the luxury of just getting a new one. No way, no how. I am very resilient: many moons ago I put my whole arm down a port-o-potty when I was on a road trip with a friend whose keys fell out of her pocket when she went to use the toilet. So, yeah. I’ll do just about anything I need to do.

    • navyard

      I would buy a new car if that was the alternative.. No way, no how.

  • anon

    On the bright side, if the battery isn’t dead yet, you can probably back up to the cloud or a laptop (from the sidewalk) and then remote-wipe it, so at least there’s no data loss/exposure.

  • gotryit

    Assuming it’s dry(ish) and I can see it, I’d get a friend, a long pry bar, some other tools, and get it out myself.
    I’d probably use tape on a stick instead of going down there.

    • Ben

      I am picturing something like Ghost Busters II now…

  • HaileUnlikely

    If I could see it, it wasn’t submerged in water, and I thought it was plausible that I could reach it, I would try to reach it with one of those long reacher/grabber tools that you sometimes see people using to pick up trash. They are widely available at places like Ace or Home Depot for about $15. If that appeared to be out of the question, I’d eat it and buy a new on. (For perspective I always buy phones that are a couple of models old; my current phone is an iPhone 5s bought last fall from Consumer Cellular for $160. If I had an $800 phone I might be more upset about it.)

    • textdoc

      +1 re. using a grabber device.
      But the OP says this happened yesterday. And didn’t it rain quite a bit yesterday evening?

      • CapitalDame

        i was just going to point out that with all the rain we had yesterday I’d assume even if you can retrieve it it will be soaked through.

    • Bobert

      Want to buy my minty 6s once they release the new 8? ;-)

      • HaileUnlikely

        I realize you’re probably joking, but in all seriousness, my carrier is offering the iPhone SE for $200 now (new, unopened, full warranty, no contract), and I’d rather buy an SE than a 6s because I prefer the smaller size. I can’t believe how absurdly huge some of the newer smartphones are. How do you fit it in your pocket? Special pants with extra huge pockets?

        • Bobert

          I have the smaller of the two, which fits into my well-fitting pants pockets just fine. The big-boy version definitely juts out far too much for me, but the 6s fits just fine.

        • dcd

          I replaced my 5 with the SE for exactly this reason.

  • Blithe

    A stick or a rope with a large knot on the end and LOTS of duct tape. And I’d try fishing.

  • Formerly ParkViewRes

    Ask a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle to retrieve it. No, but really yeah I agree with Anonymous, if you can see it I think fishing it out is the only thing you can do. I am paranoid about this scenario AND dropping it in the elevator shaft.

    • Honey Badger

      Many years ago I dropped my keys down the elevator shaft in my apartment building around midnight. Every since I make sure I’m not carrying anything in my hands that could slip between the cracks while I get in and out.

      • Formerly ParkViewRes

        Yep, I know someone who dropped their keys down the elevator shaft in their apartment building too! Luckily, his friend helped him fish them out somehow.

      • Blithe

        I too, once dropped my keys down an elevator shaft. I remember thinking that they’d have to fall just the right wrong way to….and they did. Fortunately I found a maintenance man who did something to lift the elevator car up. He was able to get my keys from the bottom of the elevator shaft. Since then, I’ve tried to remember not to have my keys out near either the elevator or the grates in the garage. This is one of those things that makes me mumble about the War on Women — and the lack of usable pockets in women’s clothes.
        . I’ve also had an earring fall off into the toilet as I flushed. I did not try to retrieve it. This is just one of the reasons I finally got my ears pierced.

      • TinkerTaylor

        Same – as a result of walking into the elevators at the federal courthouse on my phone. Dropped it, bounced once, and straight down the crack like I was trying.

      • Pixie

        I once dropped my work keys and ID badge down the elevator shaft from the 23rd floor of 58 story building. A maintenance guy was able to get them, much to my amazement.

      • Wendy Testaburger

        I’ve done the same thing with my keys in my old condo building. I had to wait a whole two months to get them back, as I was told by management that they could only get them when the elevator maintenance guy was there. Luckily, I had a full set of spare keys. I’ve also dropped my phone while waiting for the Metro. I remember watching it bounce once on the platform and then drop onto the tracks as a train was coming in. A Metro worker was kind enough to retrieve it for me after the train left, and I’m glad I didn’t have the instant reaction to go after it.

    • eggs

      I’m so paranoid about dropping things down an elevator shaft! I’ve never done it, or known anyone it’s happened to, but I still am anyway.

      • Northzax

        I once dropped a wedding invitation. Slid in like it was destiny. Back in the days of many weddings a year, pre Facebook, too. Those were some awkward phone calls. ‘Hey, did you invite me to your wedding? No? Ok, thanks’

        • textdoc

          Actual LOL!

  • Bobert

    Buy a new phone. If you do plan on trying to fetch it (ignoring the fact that it’s likely no longer operable and/or got washed further down the pipe), I’d make sure you’re VERY well vaccinated.

  • soozles

    It’s probably at Blue Plains by now since we’ve had a lot of rain, and those mains are carrying a lot of water—and a lot of raw sewage since our sewer systems (if you’re in DC) combine both stormwater and sanitary waste. Sorry it happened to you, but unless you can see that it landed in a dry spot and can safely reach it, getcha another phone.

  • LCinDC

    OH man. I think about these scenarios all the time. Unless it’s a very rare opportunity where it’s visible, pretty close, and in good condition (…it won’t be), then you just need to quickly make the decision to walk away and move on ASAP. The longer you take to accept it, the tougher it gets…don’t give yourself the false hope of rescuing–it will just cause lots of stress and wasted time before facing the reality. Sorry!

    • LCinDC

      Unless this was sent in just today, we can all picture how pointless this would be with all the rain this week.

    • Marty

      I worry about these things too. Always hold my items a little tighter as I walk over/by a storm grate!

  • jim_ed

    Well you’re going to have to make a deal with the King of the C.H.U.D.s, but since they’re only interested in human flesh, I’d recommend trying a prybar to pop the gate off (they usually come off pretty easily with a little mechanical force), and if that fails, just taking the L and buying a new phone

    • anon

      Yep, from a practical standpoint I would second the recommendation to use a prybar/crowbar to move the grate off. Taking that step would make the reaching-with-long-handled-grabber process a lot easier. Not sure how DC Water or the cops would feel if they saw someone do that though.

  • MadMax

    FWIW Liberty Mutual has an “electronic device” policy that you can add on to your home owner policy for only $50 per year that covers phones / laptops / tablets etc and they replace stuff you break pretty much no questions asked. It’s way cheaper than similar phone insurance sold through the provider and the process is very fast and easy.

    • HaileUnlikely

      Great to know about, thanks for sharing. If in the future I have reason to change carriers for my homeowners insurance, I might do that. Sooner or later so much cat fur is going to get into my computer that it will clog up the fan and cause it to melt down.

      • textdoc

        How are Behemoth Kitten and Good Little Kitty doing?

        • HaileUnlikely

          Good Little Kitty is good, but starting to show her age. We call them sisters, but think of GLK as like the mom, but realized recently that in terms of cat generations she’s more like the Great Great Great Great Great Great Grandma. Behemoth Kitten is like a fat tornado.

  • ET


  • anony

    literally my nightmare. This and it falling down an elevator shaft.

  • James

    Pull the grate up, it may seem a little stuck because of the sand and grit, use a screw driver to pry it up may help. Set the grate aside and grab your phone
    Make sure you put the grate back.

  • It

    Pennywise will get it for you.

  • Dope Moth

    Lure some ducklings into the drain, then call the fire department to remove the grate and rescue the ducklings. Tell one the ducklings to grab your phone on the way up.

  • Phone911

    I’ve actually rescued a phone out of this exact situation before. Go to Walmart and go to the fishing section. There are fishing nets that have telescoping poles and a collapsible net for about $15. Also pick up $1 flashlight. (Don’t risk someone else’s phone trying to use it as a flashlight.)


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