When nature calls? Phone meets toilet: Your 'dropped-call' tales of woe

Christmas Eve. Fifty guests due within the hour. “Meg”’s 17-year-old granddaughter emerged from the Auburn home’s only bathroom, troubled.

What to do if your cell goes kerplunk!

Just to be clear, U.S. Cellular released a tip sheet on how to revive your phone after an accidental plunge into the pool, not the toilet, but water's water, right?

In a nutshell:

* Turn power off, take out battery.

* Wipe with a towel, exposing all surfaces (slide keyboard out, flip open phone).

* Leave it alone. Avoid hairdryers or microwaves — yes, that's among the tips — letting it dry au natural. Change phone's position a few times over several days so everything drippy drips out.

* Insert battery, cross fingers.

Says U.S. Cellular: 

"If the phone turns on, you can breathe a sigh of relief, though it may be only temporary. Moisture damage signs may take time, and symptoms might appear several weeks or months later. Check your keypad, as keys that stick or don’t work all the time are signs of permanent damage."

* In the case of a toilet dunk, we might add: Lysol, Lysol, Lysol.

“I think my cell phone fell down the toilet.”

“What do you mean, ‘I think?’” Meg remembers asking.


The teen had been chatting on the loo, stood up, tucked the phone into her skinny jeans’ pocket, and now, it wasn’t there. It wasn’t anywhere. The family gathered in the bathroom. They flushed — normal as can be. They plunged — nothing. Meg’s husband reached into the bowl and felt around — zip.

“I dialed the number, the water started vibrating,” Meg said. “‘You’ve got to be kidding me!’”

So began a night of covert plunging and dear-God-don’t-let-our-guests-do-anything-of-substance and an early morning of toilet disassembly.

Merry Christmas.

Hey, it happens. We asked readers to share their tales of toilet meets phone.

Tina Ouellette of Lewiston is a school custodian. She approached the boy’s bathroom that fateful day the same as any other.

“I don’t know what these gentlemen ate the past few hours, but it wasn’t pretty,” Ouellette said. “The toilet bowl was filled with odd looking things, and weird smells were coming from it.”

She donned gloves, lifted up the seat and doused every inch of porcelain with cleaner. Then she answered a quick phone call from her mother, returned the phone to her right front pocket, leaned over the bowl . . .

You know what comes next.


“Man, I was every emotion you can think of,” Ouellette said. She snatched up the less-than-a-month-old phone from the ordorous depths. “I was praying for it to be OK. It wasn’t.”

She ran it under a hand dryer. The screen would work, then wouldn’t. Voicemail petered out. She checked it over and over for the next 24 hours. Ultimately, success! Sort of. Everything functions but the keyboard.

“So I ask myself this question: ‘Is any phone really worth all that work?’” she said. “I’m thinking 'Yes, if you really don’t have a spare $300.'”

The Rev. Doug Taylor found himself rushing around at work, rushing into the bathroom and rushing to grab his cell phone after it slipped from his grip — woosh! — right into the urinal.

“I have been in a lot of pissy situations over the years but this took the cake,” said the Lewiston man. “I held the phone as far away from me as I could while it dripped into the sink. I took out the battery and patted the phone down with a paper towel. The phone went absolutely crazy for two days and now has to be charged every night.”

His revelation: “I will go back to using the bathroom as a place to read or think but never as a telephone booth.”

Seems a quick dunk is much more common than a full-on flush.

Mac Richardson, superintendent at the Lewiston Auburn Water Pollution Control Authority, the state’s second-largest wastewater treatment plant with 11 million gallons a day, catches lots of debris in his bar screens.

Mop heads. Dolls. False teeth. But nary a cell phone.

Same story at the Portland Water District, home to the state’s largest facility.

“I checked with our plant manager and he doesn't have any tales of cell phones found,” said Public Relations Manager Michelle Clements. “We find jugs, sticks, and the most bizarre item that I have heard here is pants.”

Really people, pants?

“Meg” in Auburn said they navigated last year’s party without incident — guests didn’t suspect a thing — and the next day her husband found the BlackBerry Storm deep up into the neck of the toilet.

“Of course, the kid (was) still complaining, ‘I’ve got a date, I need the phone,’” she said.

Grandpa covered it with disinfectant and stuck the phone in a plastic bag with rice. Three days later it was back in business. The teen didn’t lose a single thing, navigating the buttons through the plastic bag to transfer off the old phone onto the new.

Sure it still worked fine, but, “it was the who-wants-to-put-it-to-your-face deal,” Meg said.

Who knows what horror that phone had seen.

Meg is still mortified, hence the request for anonymity. At one point during that night, she said her granddaughter cried “‘My world is on this phone!’ I said 'Guess what? Your life is in the toilet, baby.'”


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