Opinion: My lost iPhone got shovelled from a porta-potty, and I still use it. She’s why

Amazingly, the recovered iPhone 12 still works like a charm (pictured: not the actual phone). — Photo by Thai Nguyen on Unsplash

One friend may have thrown up in his mouth. Another said he wouldn’t text me anymore until I get a new one.

But every time I gaze at my phone – in a special blend of admiration, wonder and disgust – I am reminded, fondly, of my wife.

That woman is a keeper.

Consequently, so is this iPhone.

If you gag at the thought of peering into a porta-potty at a crowded event, stop reading. Because you know where this sordid saga is going. To a place where many men and women have “gone” before.

But if you’re a romantic? Join me for a holiday tale as heartwarming as a Christmas movie on the Hallmark Channel.

Because this story is about love.

Phone, license, credit cards

It all began as I exited Albertsons Stadium on a Black Friday destined to become a brown one. That’s when I realised, frantically patting the pockets of my jeans and Boise State sweatshirt, that I had lost my iPhone.

Up to this point, it had been a fabulous afternoon. Five of us guys. A BSU football win over Air Force. A couple of US$10 beers on a chilly, sunny day. A chance to spend time with my 15-year-old son.

Swivelling in panic, I tried to re-enter. I’d just had that phone. Roughly 50 feet away was a long row of portable toilets. We’d made a quick pit stop on the way out. Maybe it got kicked underneath?

“I can’t let you back in,” the gatekeeper said.

Sensing my frustration, he relented. As fans streamed out around us, another worker escorted me back inside. Just moments earlier, I’d spent 60 seconds using the closest porta-potty on the end. I tugged open the door. Nothing. I listened as my son dialled my number. Nothing. Another worker walked with me back to my empty stadium seat. No luck.

Location sharing on my son’s iPhone indicated it was right where we were standing. Near the exit gate. Near the porta-potty row.

But we’d hunted for what felt like 20 minutes. My friend’s six-year-old boy was cold. It was time to go home. I could check with lost-and-found at the box office Monday, I was told. I accepted my fate. This phone was history.

Maybe some drunk had tossed it into a toilet, we decided. More likely – as much as I didn’t want to admit it – I’d unknowingly dropped it in. Stupidly, I was keeping my iPhone in my right sweatshirt pocket for easy access. The pocket was crammed with a stocking cap and gloves, too. As I’d pivoted left to do my thing in the porta-potty, the phone could have silently plunged into the adjacent abyss.

Walking to the car, I used my son’s phone to call my wife. To vent. Worst of all, I explained, my driver’s license and two credit cards were now lost, too – tucked inside the phone case.

“Did you get the name of the porta-potty company?” she asked. Ahem. No.

‘Man-looked’ for the phone

Minutes later, my son announced that he was following my wife’s location with his phone. “I think she’s driving to the stadium,” he said.

What?! This irked me. Did she think she was going to find it in the dark after I’d already searched? Why would she drive to Boise State by herself?

She suspected I had “man-looked” for it, she later admitted.

Stadium empty, the environment was quiet and stress-free. Much less of a s*** show. Or maybe not.

My wife spoke to several staffers. Tried checking with ticket services, but it was closed. Spent an hour milling about.

Eventually, she found a worker – we shall call her Maintenance Angel – who agreed to let her inside the locked gate. “I think my husband lost his phone in those porta-potties,” my wife explained.

Back at our house, I was sulking. Sipping a Sorrow Drowner IPA in the kitchen. While my son played Fortnite in the media room, he hollered out that my wife had called.

“Mom thinks she sees it!” he exclaimed excitedly. “And she has a shovel!”

My other son, 13, made retching sounds, floundered around and grabbed his throat. I shuddered.

The rescue played out like this. Calling the missing phone, my wife opened doors and searched with her own iPhone’s flashlight. Was that a glow inside the end toilet? Or just her phone’s beam? Leaning down, closer and closer, she saw her name illuminated at the bottom of the blue soup.

Time for a shovel

Maintenance Angel wanted no part. But offered a shovel. And held the door.

It turns out porta-potty toilets aren’t very deep. Better yet, there was more liquid sanitiser than toilet paper. “And I didn’t see any faeces!” my wife added cheerfully, recalling the nighttime extrication.

At around 7.30pm, she marched into our house clutching my phone gingerly with a rubber glove and paper towel. Before I knew it, the screen protector was tossed. She disinfected the iPhone, the case and the cards with cleaning wipes. Soaked items in bleach. Buried the phone in rice.

The next day, it worked. Like new.

I could barely bring myself to touch it.

The crazy part? This iPhone isn’t even mine. It’s a company phone. Would the Idaho Statesman have made me pony up to replace it if I’d lost it? No idea.

Or will my horrified employer offer me a new phone after reading this confessional? I wrote this column without sharing the topic in advance. “Holy s***!” is the reaction I expect to get from my editor.

In reality, my iPhone is probably cleaner than it was 24 hours after it left the white box. It’s definitely less filthy than your phone is right now.

I still cringe when I use it.

Then I smile. Remember to give my wife an extra hug. Like I said, I sort of have to hold on to this iPhone 12.

Even if my buddies won’t stop fake barfing, it makes for a good story.

Or a gross one, at least. – The Idaho Statesman/Tribune News Service

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