All I can say is I thank God for firefighters. Here's what happened:
I spent a busy day in the lab directing the eager efforts of two students visiting our lab for the summer from Dubai. They are both hard workers and smart, which means that they can pretty much finish a task soon after I assign it, and with my adviser away in Germany presenting a paper he and I wrote that leaves me pretty busy keeping these guys busy. Don't get me wrong, this is a good thing.
So I'm racing home on my bike through near 100°F heat, trying not to be too late for Eliza's 5th birthday. So that I can stay hands free and still talk on the phone while I bike, I've figured out what I thought was a pretty good way to tuck my cell phone under the straps of my biking helmet. With the phone on loudspeaker, I'm able to hear and be heard without sacrificing safety by tying up a hand while I ride.
I had just ended a call to let Hannah know I was on my way when, I'm not sure what caused this, the cell phone slipped from the straps and flew into the street, taking my glasses with it. I screeched to a halt and turned around as quickly as possible to rescue my glasses. Amazingly, they survived the fall with no scratches on the lenses, a big relief, but the only parts of my phone I could find were the face plate and key pad. Finally I realized that there was the storm drain, and when I stuck my head in, I could just barely see the rest of my phone, down in the leaves in the bottom of the drain.
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It just so happens that my mishap occurred directly in front of Austin Fire Department Station #3. (Behind and to the left in the picture above, it's the red brick building. The Offending Storm Drain is visible just ahead of my position on the right.) I grew up in the neighborhood, and I used to frequent this particular firehouse as a youngster , selling the Worlds Greatest Chocolate, popcorn, and whatever overpriced medium my school was using for fund-raising that year. Through these visits, I developed a fondness and respect for firemen that endures to this day, so I walked my bike over, explained my case, and asked whether anyone could help. Doing so, I interrupted and eagerly abandoned game of ping-pong, and created an opportunity for three of these fine men to grab a bunch of wicked-looking gear and hike across the street to rescue my phone. It was, of course, no problem to lift the cover and send the youngest guy, the new recruit, down into the hole to fetch the phone. Knowing full well that they loved the opportunity to get out and do something, I thanked them once, with genuine heartfelt gratitude, and rode the rest of the way home.
Now the moral of the story is, if you're going to lose something down a storm drain, do it in front of a fire station!