In slow motion, the phone arced from my hands to the floor, where there was a drain in the floor. The cover to the drain sat next to the hole. The phone dropped directly into the hole. I stared at my hands, wondering how that had just happened.
At first I assumed the phone was lost forever. But when I stood up and looked into the hole, I saw that in fact it was a dry pipe that went down a few feet then took a right-angled turn. My phone was wedged in the turn, in view.
It was in sight, so it was retrievable after all! I rolled up my sleeve, plunged my arm in almost to my elbow, and stretched. Wiggling my fingers, I couldn't even feel it. It was a deep hole.
Embarrassed, I realized I'd need to ask for help. "What I really need," I thought to myself, "is somebody with skinnier arms." It didn't look all that far away, I just couldn't reach my arm in far enough.
I returned to the table and explained to M, "We have a situation." He suggested I talk to our waitress. I didn't think her arms were skinny enough either. There was another waitress I'd seen with really skinny arms, but I started with our own waitress.
When I, very red-faced, explained what had happened, she grabbed somebody who was sitting at the bar and smoking. "I need you," she said. I later realized he was probably the owner or manager. As the three of us walked to the ladies' room, she and I agreed that we needed skinny arms. We both spotted the small thin waitress simultaneously, and she recruited her to our task.
The skinny-armed waitress tried, but couldn't reach it. The manager took a look, and said the pipe was a lot deeper than we realized. "Can we try a broom, or something long?" The manager then grabbed another guy who'd just come in, telling me that his handyman could fix anything. He grabbed a few tools and went in.
I waited outside in the hallway with my waitress, because the bathroom had gotten crowded. "Do you want a drink," she asked me. I said no, because I was hoping we'd have my phone retrieved any second.
Then the handyman then came out and said he was going next door to the dollar store to see if he could buy something that would help, and left the building.
The owner returned with a coat hanger. "Where'd he go?" We said the dollar store, and he said, "I don't want to retrieve it while he's gone, he'd be disappointed." I convinced him that it'd be okay to try, and he unbent the coat hanger to turn it into a long wire with a hook on the end.
He started fishing around in the hole, with me watching. The engineer in me was itching to shove him aside and try it myself, and I was sure that a better solution would be to bend the coat hanger in half, and have two smaller hooks reaching under the phone (for better stability). However it was his bathroom and his hole, and he seemed sure it would work, so I left him to it.
At this point a customer came in wanting to use the bathroom, so we all cleared out to give her privacy. The owner told me that in 29 years, this had never happened before. Then he congratulated me and shook my hand. Beaming with pretend pride, I went back to my table to report the current status to M.
He shook his head as I described the situation, laughing at my dilemma, and I laughed too. It's certainly one of the stranger things that's ever happened to my phone!
The handyman reappeared, and our waitress came by and said, "He's got a little net."
I went back into the bathroom to check on the status. The handyman was kneeling at the hole, with a long strange bamboo-like pole that had a net on the end of it - probably for aquariums or something. He had a flashlight in his other hand, and was trying to fish the phone out. My waitress and I observed for awhile, and she asked, "Is there anything I can do to help?"
"No, I've got it," he told her, a little impatient. "Go wait tables."
"This is my table," she told him. I laughed. "Anyway I offered them a drink, and they said they didn't need anything."
"Maybe you'd better bring us another round after all," I said, beginning to realize this would take awhile. The phone was clearly retrievable, but we needed to find the right combination of improvised tools to get it out of the stupid pipe.
I sat down at the table, and gave M the latest status. "Also I've ordered us more drinks." He brightened at that, but pronounced himself still befuddled by the whole situation. I shrugged... the whole thing was rather absurd.
We sat and drank for awhile, then I popped back into the bathroom to check how things were going. The handyman had the net in one hand, pole-end pointing in the hole, and the coat-hanger in his other hand. He also had a flashlight propped so it was pointing down the hole. "I got it halfway up," he told me, "but then it fell again. We're almost there though."
A cook walked in and said, "Here, I've got something for you!" He slid a pair of salad tongs across the floor to the handyman. I was excited by them, I thought that if I reached my arm in as far as it would go, holding the tongs, I could probably reach it and pull it out. He said it'd still be too far for me to reach. I then tried to suggest my idea of bending the coat hanger in half, but he was too focused on his almost-working solution, so I didn't press it.
At one point he finally got the phone hooked, and he eased it up. It was just inches from the top of the hole. I crouched behind him, offering to reach around and see if I could grab it with my fingers. "What I need you to do," he told me, "is grab it with the pliers."
"The pliers, are you sure?" He insisted, so I reached around and grabbed the pliers. There was only room for my one hand, and they wouldn't open wide enough to go around the phone. Then it dropped down again. We both let out exasperated sighs.
At this point two very drunk nurses barged into the bathroom, nearly running us both over. He asked if they'd mind if he continued doing maintenance with the stall door closed. They didn't, so he closed his stall and they each went into a stall on either side of him. I wasn't able to help then, and they were loud and obnoxious, so I went back to my table.
M and I sat, sipping our drinks, shaking our heads over the whole ridiculous saga. Then the cook poked his head out and said, "He got it, come get your phone!"
I sprang up, and the cook explained that he'd gotten it up to the top again, and this time the cook had reached in with his hand and grabbed it before it fell again. Hooray!
I walked into the bathroom, and the handyman was drying the phone off with a paper towel. "Here, I've cleaned it for you." There was dirt all over the floor that had been scraped off the pipe during the extraction process, and the phone had been covered with dirt. I blinked at him. Had he just washed my phone in the sink??
I didn't ask though, because at this point, what difference did it make? The phone was clearly wet, whether there had been some moisture in the bottom of the pipe after all, or whether he had decided to put it under running water for me. I bundled it up in a paper towel and took it back to my table.
The poor phone's screen was lit up, and it was vibrating. Non-stop vibrating... not good. Also it kept rebooting. I pulled the battery out, wrapped up all the pieces, and put it in my pocket. Functional or not, at least it was with me again!
We thanked the handyman several times, and he said ruefully, "It's okay. Sadly, believe it or not, this is actually my job."
Afterword: I left the battery out and let the phone dry out all night. This morning I took an old toothbrush to it and scrubbed out all the dirt I could find. It's now booting up fine, and mostly working. I can do texts and internet, and I can make calls, but I can't hear through the earpiece. I have to put it on speaker phone to hear. The screen has a blotch on it, which is probably moisture somewhere inside that I can't access (I've tried). It makes the wrong noises, and the notification light isn't working. However all the major functionality works. I'll have to decide in a couple of days, once it dries out more and I clean it more thoroughly, if it works well enough or not. I've been lusting after a Palm Pre for months now, but my contract with ATT doesn't run out for 10 more months. Decisions, decisions!