Once, in grad school, I dropped my phone on the tracks while standing on the Queensbound platform of the N train at Times Square. I made a transfer there every day on my way home from campus, and, like most days, I was pretty fried. It was late in the semester, I was rushing to finish everything ever, and it was about a million degrees underground.

It was a Samsung smartphone, and I watched it fall onto the tracks in slow motion, the back cover and the battery scattering when it bounced. I looked at it lying face down on the wooden track support, and tried to puzzle out what to do. I couldn’t reach it, since the tracks are about 5 feet lower than the platform. There was a payphone an arm’s length away, but who would I call? The police?

A man who had been standing nearby walked over, took off his messenger bag, and handed it to me. “Wait, what? No.” He said he was going to jump down and retrieve the phone. I really like following rules and also really like not yet having seen a dead body outside of a hospital or funeral home, so I told him no. I had to argue with him to keep him off the tracks! It is not sane behavior to ARGUE with a STRANGER about whether you’re going to jump onto subway tracks with a live third rail and also large and heavy trains regularly traveling on them to retrieve her dumb phone because she’s a dumb person who dumbly dropped it!*

I finally went to find a station attendant, who was completely unmoved by my plight but promised to call for someone to come get the phone. “Do you mind going back and watching it, though?” she asked. I didn’t have any other plans. “Sometimes if a homeless person sees something like that on the tracks, they’ll jump down to get it, and, well…” Back to that dead body.

I sat there watching trains lumber over my lost phone, sure that it was broken anyway, sure that I was going to pass out from the heat, sure that one of these trains would somehow crush it if it wasn’t already shattered, sure that my boyfriend was going to assume I was dead and not wait for me for dinner. And then, ambling down the platform: my heroes. Two dudes in baggy jeans and ratty t-shirts and reflective construction vests. They were carrying claw grabber things on long sticks, and once I flagged them down, my phone and its component parts were in my hand within seconds. I looked down to put the device back together, and – POOF – they were gone. Like magic. 

Everyone has a story about dropping something on the tracks. But, pro-tip, again: Don’t let strangers jump onto the tracks for you! Just don’t! You don’t want that burden!

*New Yorkers are in fact very nice and generous and also very weird and creepy. Sometimes all at once.

Decided to share after reading this article, which was shared by Evie in her weekly newsletter. Sign up now! Photo of the 7-train yard at the end of the line in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, one of my favorite places.