January 30, 2017
A New York City man, who helplessly watched as his beloved gold wedding band fell off his finger and rolled in "slow-motion" through a sidewalk grate, got it back one week later with the help of a NYC utility company.
There are 39,000 sidewalk grates citywide and each one can strike fear into the heart of an average pedestrian. Unlike Marilyn Monroe, who famously stood on a sidewalk grate in the 1955 film The Seven Year Itch and relished the rush of air as a subway passed below, many people avoid the metal grates for fear of snapping off a heel or accidentally dropping something valuable into the abyss below. Some grates cover recesses 10 or 15 feet deep, while others conceal voids that can go down some eight stories.
Wallace Collins wasn't worrying about the grates when he headed out on errands and then to a lunch meeting near his apartment on East 39th Street and 2nd Avenue recently. The businessman was distracted and juggling papers when his wedding band slipped off his finger, bounced on the sidewalk and rolled toward a sidewalk grate.
"I was thinking three blocks ahead to where I had to be and I guess I was fiddling around with the papers I had in my hand, thinking 'Does the mail come first, or the bank on the corner? I gotta put that slip on top,'" Collins told NBC 4 New York.
Collins described how the tragic scene played out...
"It rolled along the sidewalk and it was kind of like a slow-motion," he told NBC 4 New York.
He also recalled recognizing the precious jewelry heading toward the grate and saying to himself, "Wait, that's my ring!"
Collins made a headlong dive to save the ring, but it found a gap in the grate and landed about 15 feet below.
"For a split-second I thought, 'Oh I can get it,' and then it fell through," he said.
Collins told his story to a doorman of the nearby building and then to a police officer. They suggested he call 311, which is a phone number many cities support for non-emergency issues. That didn't work, so the next step was to call Con Edison, the utility provider.
A Con Ed customer service rep told Collins that she couldn't send out a crew right away because his situation wasn't an emergency. She did, however, promise to "get to it when we can."
Day after day, Collins would pass over the grate and peer down to make sure the ring was still there.
"I knew it was safe where it was until someone came to get it," he said.
Finally, last Wednesday, a week after his call to Con Ed, a team from the utility was sent to rescue the ring. On hand to witness the operation was Collins, who can be seen pointing to the spot where he knew the ring to be.
A few minutes after flipping open the grate and heading down with a ladder, a Con Ed worker emerged with the ring and handed it to Collins.
"Whoa, there we go!" exclaimed Collins. "Back where it belongs."
Collins slipped the ring back on his finger and modeled it for the NBC 4 New York camera.
He thanked the Con Edison workers and promised to be more careful in the future — especially while walking over New York City's sidewalk grates.
"I'll always be paranoid about it now," he told NBC 4 New York.
Source: Screen captures via nbcnewyork.com.