Friday, April 13, 2012


Ask a Clumsy Person

You WILL thank me later, guys. Here's what I want you to do. Get a Ziploc bag. Put it in your purse. Go about your life. Unless you are a minimalist, you will totally buy things that come with those little silica gel packets. The ones that say "do not eat" for no reason?

Okay, every time you get one, toss it in the Ziploc bag. People will think you're nuts. Ask your friends for theirs! Do this for the rest of your life.

Now, some day, and, believe me, that day will come, you're going to drop your phone in the toilet. Or, if you're me, the dog's water dish.

The MINUTE that happens (okay, the minute after you fish it out and hurl obscenities at the world), drop that mother in the Ziploc bag and seal it. Do not touch it for 24 hours. It's like the uncooked rice trick, but with greater moisture-sucking power and less dust. Oh, yeah, you can learn about this elsewhere on the internet, but it's kind of a Captain Hindsight suggestion.

Here's the thing. You may decide not to do this, because none of us ever think we will ever again drop our phone in the toilet. But we will. We all will. One of us is probably doing it right now.

Just be honest with yourself, okay? The worst thing that can happen is that people will see you collecting silica packets.

I lied. The worst thing that can happen is getting caught swiping extra packets from purses at Century 21. Don't do that.

101 Comments / Post A Comment


True story: I dropped a hairpin in the toilet last week.


@SarahP No wonder I felt so damp.

Also, I once accidentally dropped the spindle for the toilet paper roll in the toilet just as the final swirl went down the bowl. It just shot right out of my hand when I tried to put it back.


@Xanthophyllippa OMG I did this a few months ago! It got flushed down the toilet and blocked the toilet. We had to get a new one. It's our second new toilet of the winter, my parents say our plumber is going to put a new wing on her house and name it after us.


@SarahP love that you've got a gal plumber. Time to come up with a diminutive? Plumberess? Plumbette? PLUMBA!


@Xanthophyllippa I dropped my Mooncup in the toilet once, and somehow my brain's shocked response was to flush it and then go NOOO I DIDN'T MEAN TO DO THAT and spend the rest of the day paranoid and convinced a plumber was going to turn up in my office holding it up and demanding to know what this weird thing that blocked the loo was.


@glitterary Ooh. I haven't decided what I would do if I dropped mine in. Because public toilets, ew. But (a) those bastards are expensive, and (b) they don't make the Meluna I like anymore and I don't want to lose it. Maybe I would feel OK after boiling it?

Anyway. Sorry for menstrual-jacking your post. I'm sorry you lost your Mooncup :/


@SarahP oh man once i dropped a full but miniature sized bottle of fancy leave-in conditioner in the toilet after i had used it and i was like ooooooooooooookayyyyyyyyyyyyy i'll just flush and then grab the bottle when the water is slightly cleaner but the bottle flushed down!!!!!!

it was so sad, and also, i really thought i fucked up my plumbing royally.

probably not as royally as the time i was helping a roomie puke drunkenly into a toilet and she dropped a glass of water in which promptly shattered in the bowl and then yikes i don't really know what happened with that one


@glitterary HA! "Excuse me, ma'am; did you drop some kind of rubber gasket in the toilet?"

The Best Thing I've Ever Dropped In The Toilet (Besides the Spindle) was I think last year, when I was out skiing and took off my nice new black fleece neckwarmer. Because it wouldn't fit in my jacket pocket, I tucked it into the rear waistband of my pants (it's a rower trick: you can carry a LOT in the rear waistband, like wrenches and socks and water bottles). I then drove to Target where I decided to use the bathroom; I pulled down my pants, peed and dried off, then turned around to flush and couldn't figure out what the big black thing in the toilet was. I did actually pull it out and rinse it a few times in the sink; then I wrapped it in a paper towel and went to Customer Service to ask for a plastic bag. The woman there gave me an odd look, so I said, "Sorry, I dropped my hat in the toilet, but I have some shopping to do and I don't want to walk around the store dripping all over." I'm surprised she didn't call security.


@glitterary I dropped mine in the toilet last year. I managed to fish it out but I was so horrified I ended up replacing it. Not enough bleach in the WORLD.


@Xanthophyllippa Rowers do the strangest things, it's true. I think it comes from waking up at 4:30 in the morning to wear spandex in public. I never managed to successfully carry wrenches in my waistband because they would slide down; instead I'd tuck them into my bra.
Sexxxxxxy, right?


@SarahP Her name is Christine - she is really great. She said that the most common thing she removes from toilets is the lids of those lotions that come in jars. Apparently they're the perfect size to fit down the toilet and people drop them in after getting their hands slippery with lotion.


@gobblegirl Ha! If I tried to tuck a wrench into my bra it would fall right on through immediately (I know this because I occasionally try to stash my iPod in my bra when I run, and every time I make it about 20 feet before it falls through and starts dangling out the bottom of my shirt). My record for carrying items in my spandex was a pair of socks, a pair of tevas, a water bottle, and my foam butt pad.


@SarahP I dropped a hairpin down the drain this week! I was trying to unblock said drain using my patented "poking at it with a hairpin" method, and it slipped from my grasp, making the blockage worse.
I THOUGHT OF YOU GUYS! Mostly of how unimpressed Jolie would be...


@che @anachronistique I think I would probably have boiled the hell out of it, and put in disinfectant for a week, and then tried to forget which of the 2-3 I own it was. I mean, they're designed to be sterilised--it shouldn't really matter where they've been before that. (But of course, it does.)


OMG! too Funny! ;D@a


Or from shoe boxes at DSW. Goldmine!

Does Axl have a jack?

@Ophelia I...am going to do this. As soon as possible.


Once a packet of those silica gel balls opened in my bag, and one got jammed into the headphone socket of my cell phone. So, another reason to keep them in a bag.


You can buy silical gel pebbles (or whev) at craft stores by the pound, and it's reusable! I bought it to dry out my friend's bridal bouquet, but I am holding on to it for just this purpose.


Would a ziploc of rice work? (I'm a minimalist)


@lucia_engel maybe keep the rice grains in a paper bag within the ziploc to avoid scenarios like @paddlepickle's below


So, I recently dropped my Iphone in the toilet when I'd been drinking and was about to head out to a bar with my friends. My friends were like "OMG TURN IT OFF AND PUT IT IN A BAG OF RICE IMMEDIATELY". So, I did. When I turned it back on later, it kept giving me weird messages, like, "You have inserted a device that is not recognized", so I was all AHHH MY PHONE IS BROKEN FOREVER CAUSE I DROPPED IT IN THE TOILET LIKE A DRUNK MORON.

Then I realized that there was rice stuck in the port. That was the 'device that was not recognized'. So now it's fine.

So, I don't know about the whole rice thing, in general.

Sydney C

@paddlepickle Hahaha, I just read that as "dropped my iphone in the toilet where I'd been drinking" and was like, "that's what you get for drinking from the toilet, silly!"


@Sydney C It's not as weird as you think it is, because I am a Labrador Retriever.


@paddlepickle This story is making me strangle quietly at my desk.


@paddlepickle i knew there was something off about you!


correction, i knew there was something secretly more amazing than anything anybody could ever suspect about you!


what if the things you need are always in the other purse? (i have all of two purses, only one of which i use regularly. AND YET.)


Isopropyl alcohol. A big jar of it. Sink it completely. First take the back off and the battery out, if it's a phone. Leave it a while, fish it out. The alcohol gets where the water was, replaces it, evaporates faster. Don't turn the thing on for a week. Works. Swear to Dog.


@noReally really? more liquid? scary...


@rararuby yeah, that is terrifying..also what if you can't remove your battery?


@queenieliz If you can't get the battery off then you can't. More liquid, yeah, but alcohol does nothing to circuit boards or their connections. You can clean<\i> the inside of a phone or ipod with alcohol. It goes in and banishes the deadly water, and then disappears, oxidizing nothing. The display might wind up a little funky around the edges, but I swear this works. Just don't turn it on first. I fished my phone out of the washer at the very end. Spin and all. I'm using it today. Alcohol being both the cause and the solution to all of life's problems? This is one clear case of Solution.


ALSO: having an errant ziplock in your bag will deign you a Real American Hero when the heavens open during outdoor music festivals/ballgames/etc. and all of your friends beg you to keep their cell phones high and dry while you Woodstock in the rain and mud and alcohol(hypothetically).


@JessAndNo My dad always has several small garbage bags on him, partly because he is chief dogwalker but also for this sort of thing.


I borrowed my (former) lab's desiccator bell for an overnighter. It made me feel very old-timey.


@Xanthophyllippa A whaaaaaat now? This sounds like a fascinating and olde-timey piece of equipment that has probably been incorporated into a steampunk getup.


@Xanthophyllippa Oh yeah, you know there's one of those on a hipster's dining table with some succulents growing in it, and/or incorporated into some steampunk headgear.


@The Everpresent Wordsnatcher It's got a tiny hemp plant growing in it. You know, to make rope and stuff.

Marquise de Morville

Would the silica stuff in disposable diapers work as well? I have no recent experience with diapers, but they might give you a larger source amount of the same moisture sucking polymer? Could you cut it open? Also: do not accidentally wash the silica gel packets because you will get polymer beads allover your laundry (I know from experience).

Semi-related: I attended a recruiting weekend of a large chemical company and they passed around samples of high-end water absorbing polymer (used in diapers and to grow grass along highways in the middle east). We put it one in our coffee mug and it worked very efficiently. Then they asked for their samples back...

Reginal T. Squirge

I think the worst thing that can happen is you reach in your bag for a snack and end up eating one of the packes, thinking it's a saltine or something.

Bridget Smith@twitter



Extra bonus: you will never be one of those women from terrible stand-up routines that complains about her man never putting the seat down! And I think we can all agree that not recognizing yourself in terrible stand-up is a good thing.


@Bridget Smith@twitter But sometimes you forget your phone is in your back pocket and as you go to sit down, it slips out of the stupidly shallow back pocket and ... plop! Get out the silica balls.

Bridget Smith@twitter

@hulia I have come dangerously close to doing this myself! And of course, there's the dog water bowl, the beach, the pool, the bathroom sink, the kitchen sink, and the glass of water you accidentally knock over on the counter. So yeah. Silica packets: AWESOME TIP, thanks, fellow clumsy person!

fondue with cheddar

@Bridget Smith@twitter YES THIS. I never drop things in my toilet for this very reason.

@hulia I always bring my phone into the bathroom at work (for me-time!) and I'm always afraid that will happen!


At my sham wedding my roommate dropped her phone in the toilet (and left it there? I found it when I went for a pee break, thankfully before I peed), and I took it out and just put it in her room. It didn't work any more, and I probably should have put it in rice or something, but the girl left her phone behind in the toilet, there were more urgent issues to deal with.


@Nutmeg There are so many questions after reading this comment. ...Or two, really. Two questions. Let's start with the sham wedding?


@whatsherface Oh man, it's not really exciting; citizenship purposes blah blah but then a bunch of traumatic shit happened to me (IE a good friend of his raped me and I couldn't really deal with hanging around the area any more) and I got the hell out of Dodge before I could actually help him get citizenship? I guess long story short I found out this year that I file my taxes as "single".


@whatsherface And if the second question is about what the more urgent issues were, they were that my roommate who left her phone in the toilet was so drunk that I had to convince her to go to bed because she was embarrassing herself.


I think I have only dropped makeup in my toilet. I try not to bring my phone in there with me.


While I enjoyed reading this, I feel like it is a blatant attempt to distract us from the fact that there was NO ASK A DUDE/LADY/QUEER CHICK TODAY. WE WILL NOT BE SO EASILY APPEASED, HAIRPIN. WE DEMAND LENGTHY ADVICE COLUMNS.


@paddlepickle TRUTH. some of us have NEEDS because we recently relocated from being 1 to 3 hours late on everything to being 6 to 10 hours early!


Also do not stand in front of your washing machine thinking "hmm, there's still room in there and these jeans I'm wearing could use washing" and proceed to wash jeans without checking pockets. In 20 minutes you're going to wonder where your phone is, then feel very stupid, and not just because you're not wearing any pants.


GUYS. My boyfriend works for a company that makes silica gel packages for museums. I'm in the money.


@Jaya Man you could THROW your phone in the toilet for funsies and not even care.


I started collecting the silica packets, meaning I have two somewhere in my living room. But I can't remember why I wanted them? It wasn't in case of future phone disasters. I think maybe I was going to put them in my shoes?


@lobsterhug I put them in my pill bottles in the bathroom. It gets very damp in there after showers and I like to think it keeps them "fresher." Maybe I'm making this up though.

Cat named Virtute

@Amphora Is-is that a good idea? Aren't they kind of poisonous?


@Marika Pea@twitter Yeah, probably.... but I live alone with no children. This isn't something I'd do, for example, at my parents' house where they pop pills without looking all the time.


@Marika Pea@twitter But they put silica packets in some food! Like beef jerky! So they must be okay, right?


@frigwiggin Also, in some packets of pepperoni? I learned this when making a homemade pizza and it made me very uncomfortable. What is it about pepperoni that needs to be dried? ...they are greasy. ?!?!


@Marika Pea@twitter I swear to god there used to be a website where someone would taste-test the various silica gel packets that came in their shoes and bags. But it's non-toxic according to North Carolina poison control, they're just a choking hazard for kids. And, y'know, since they are a dessicant you probably don't want to eat it by the handful.

Oh, squiggles

Doing this now!


I've never dropped a phone in the toilet (yet, I suppose). I'm much into the whole 'dropping it on concrete' thing. I did once bend over to flush and my earring fell out straight into the bowl. I bid it adieu and away it went. I was not fishing a $15 earring out of an about to be flushed toilet.

I have a friend who dropped her purse in a porta potty. Like... into the hole. She fished it out (....) but the phone didn't make it. Some drunk festival goer was probably really confused when a phone started ringing from below their ass.


@AmandaBunny My friends and I have a whole system of value of objects based on whether or not we would fish them out of a festival porta-potty, dependent on depth, what kind of mess was it was dropped into...


@bangs NOTHING is that valuable. MAYBE a child.

Peanut Butter

@spanglepants MAYBE a child... MAYBE.


@spanglepants: Well, sure, saving the child's life is fine - but if it was yours, wouldn't you have to give it away? I mean you could never touch it again, let alone kiss it goodnight...


@AmandaBunny I live in fear of dropping my car keys into the porta-potty at the park where I ski during the winter. I actually will unlock the car and leave the keys inside to avoid the possibility of this happening, as the chance that someone will steal the car while I'm in the porta-potty is much less horrifying to me than the thought of having to root around in the tank with a ski pole to try to get them out.

Also, I may or may not be scarred for life after seeing the episode in Season 1 of Glee when they lock...is it Artie? in the porta-potty, then tip it over so the door is against the ground. I often feel the urge to pray while I'm in there.


@Xanthophyllippa I won't use porta-potties. Or gas station bathrooms. I pull over and pee on the side of the road. I feel like it literally is 100x more sanitary.


@The Kendragon You're undoubtedly right. Harder to do in a state park with groomed trails when the leaves aren't on the trees, though. (Men have the advantage there; I think it's a little easier to hide.)


Just don't use couscous. Trust me.


@thisisunclear I HAVE USED THE COUS AND IT WORKED. (for a week or so).


@JessAndNo Well, to be honest it worked, eventually...the phone came back to life six months later. At which point I called it, lovingly, "toiletphone," for the rest of its short life.

Brook Bolen@facebook

thank you so much for this advice! i have lost many a phone to a toilet maritime death.


I literally throw dozens of those packets away a day, because all our merchandise comes with them and they always wind up everywhere (they also turn a terrifying orange-brown after overexposure to the air, fyi, really DO NOT EAT). They are mostly annoying, but now I'm thinking maybe I should just hoard them instead of cursing their existence?


I have a bag of uncooked rice at the back of my kitchen cupboard that is labeled "Phone Rice." I used it to dry out my boyfriend's phone once and now I feel weird eating it, so I'm saving it for next time? For the record, the first time I did the phone-rice thing, we totally ate it later. Conflicted.


@xx-xx-xx Yeah I totally threw the rice away when I did that. I know they use toxic metals and stuff in some electronics parts and I was worried some maybe came out in the water.

Valley Girl

Important Note! Maybe it's just my dogs that love to eat them but make sure you keep the silica packs away from your pets. It's not toxic to them but it can still make them sick by blocking their intestines.


My friend put her phone in her travel mug while driving. Which worked great until she wanted more coffee...


OTHER THING TO DO: Be 16. Go to a big high school where all the classrooms have tile flooring. Collect packets. Distribute said packets to classmates in very large, very boring Spanish class. Instruct classmates to open packets, revealing small handfuls of shiny beady thingies. Instruct classmates to throw thingies forcefully toward the floor at high noon. Watch the clock strike noon. Watch thousands and thousands of gel silica beads BOUNCE OFF OF EVERYTHING IN A BEAUTIFUL SEA OF SHINY BOUNCING THINGIES. And keep bouncing, because holy cow those things have hops. And never get incriminated? Yes. That.


boyfriend put his phone in his SWIMMING TRUNKS and climbed into a hot tub. If only we knew this trick. Phone was so de-stressed after said hot tub, it decided never to work again.

Nicole Cliffe

@cmaurat Oh, God, my husband did that exact thing. And he found out because he said 'we should order pizza! I'll...call...' (worried face, hand disappears beneath water, dripping phone emerges.)


You guys!! I have a story about this!

In college I had a phone that had demons. Or a troll. Something inside it that turned it off and on whenever it wanted, and not when I pushed the button that some engineer expected to work for that exact purpose. I got fed up with these demon shenanigans and went to the phone store and ordered a replacement!

THAT VERY NIGHT I drunkenly dropped my phone into the toilet at the bar. I dried it out (without rice or anything, just let it dry) and didn't worry too much about it since that replacement was coming in the mail anyway. And a day or two later, I rebooted the phone and it was fine. Actually, it was better than fine, since the toilet cured the demon. I cancelled the replacement phone and used that one for another two years!


@alpelican Phone must have had a witch. (It sank, you drownded it, no more witch.)


I have never dropped my phone in the toilet (yet), but I did somehow managed to drop my phone in my coffee mug at work. Not even a particularly large coffee mug, and from the other side of my desk, so yay for accuracy? I was dumb and continued to use the phone, even though it had been almost completely submerged. What? It was a little sticky, but it was still working!! The very next day, I dropped my phone onto my concrete front steps and cracked the screen. After that I promptly took myself to an Apple store to ask if the screen could be replaced or what? The lovely Apple guy looked my phone over, then asked me if I knew of anything else happening to my phone. Me, being incredibly naive and kind of impressed with my ability to hit a coffee mug from miles away, I told him my story. He just stared at me dumbfounded for a bit, then laughed. Apparently liquid submersion voids your warranty? And most people know of this? So when asked by lovely Apple guy (who has just checked the liquid detector in the phone and knows full well what happened)if they know of anything else happening to their phone, they lie? Not this girl. He thought it was hilarious and awesome that I was so honest (read: oblivious) that he decided to just give me a brand new phone to replace my ruined one. Love you, Apple guy! Yay for accuracy AND naivety?


wooo clumsy people

"did you literally just trip while you were standing still?"

...yes *hangs head in shame*


@redheaded&crazie That's pretty much actually my life.

Of late, I was walking down a busy street with my boyfriend, on totally flat pavement, in shoes that I am comfortable with. We had been to a fancy choral concert, I was dressed up really nice. We were going to a nice dinner. He was about a foot away from me, looking at his phone. And then I was on the ground, bleeding, with a whole group of people who, strangely, were not looking at me with concern, but rather with anger at my boyfriend, who was making his best "I didn't do it!" face.

He has suggested I go to finishing school so that it less often looks like he abuses me in public.


I guess this would also work for cameras, for moments when you want to take a photo of birds in a fountain, and you take a step forward, not realizing that there is a sort of moat around the fountain, trip, and fall in the fountain with your camera? Hypothetically, of course.

(The day this happened, again hypothetically, "my friend" knew what to do with the camera, because my cousin had just spent the night drying her camera on that same trip after the cap fell off her water bottle inside her waterproof bag, turning it into a waterproof swimming pool for her things. We took out batteries and SD cards and dried the cameras on some towels on a space heater, because we hadn't been collecting silica bags. But now we will. Forever.)

Ophelia Tudeaux@twitter

You know, you can use a stove-top pressure cooker like an autoclave (without the drying cycle) to sterilise your mooncup all proper like.


@Ophelia Tudeaux@twitter I am sitting here, all agape, and imagining the things I could do with a handy-dandy homestyle autoclave. I haven't bought a pressure cooker yet, but this just swung the needle in to the YES! side of the dial.


@Ophelia Tudeaux@twitter There are stories of the grad students in the Ag school here making Thanksgiving dinner in the autoclaves in the 60s and 70s. They had to stop when someone overloaded it with cranberries and the pressure blew the door off and spurted boiling hot cranberries and cranberry-scented steam all over.


I started keeping the silica gel packets years and years ago just because...they seem like things? Like real, useful things that shouldn't go in the trash? I might be a bit of a hoarder. But, so, I just happened to be collecting those, in a zippy bag because that was handy, and then one day I dropped my phone in the toilet and my brain IMMEDIATELY pieced those two things together and in the bag it went. And it dried out and worked! Ever since I've been telling people to keep the silica gel packets (DO NOT EAT!) and they are like, "yeah ok, whatevs." But I know. And Nicole Cliffe knows. I betcha A Clean Person knows, too. We know stuff, and we are armed with bags of tasty looking silica gel packets!


That actually sounds like a really good idea for me. Especially since I now know the rice trick totes works after accidently washing my iPod in my pants pocket a couple months ago. A day in a bowl of rice and it works almost like new (well, the sound quality's a little different... but still, RICE. Awesome.)


My sister sent me a quart ziplock baggie of neatly-packaged silica dessicant this year as a birthday present. She is the best sister ever.


I really need this column in my life, so very badly. The sheer number of "I swear I'm not drunk, I'm just that klutzy" conversations I've had in life...


Turns out a bowl of dry rice sitting on your desk at work also weirdly doubles as a therapeutic pen pot.


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