Who you gonna call when you drop your wedding ring through a sewer grate?
Con Edison, apparently.
That was the hard-won, if obvious, lesson for Wallace Collins, whose painstaking attempts to find the right people to retrieve his precious ring underground finally paid off Wednesday.
Collins was walking to a lunch meeting from his midtown apartment near East 39th Street and 2nd Avenue last week, juggling papers in his hand, when his ring slipped off.
"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.
As he shuffled the papers in a rush, Collins felt his ring fall off.
"It rolled along the sidewalk and it was kind of like a slow-motion, 'Wait, that's my ring!'" said Collins.
He dived onto the grate.
"I was down on my hands and knees, and my hand was on the grate because it was there for a split-second, and I thought, 'Oh I can get it!,' and then it fell through," he said. "And I looked down and it was deep grate, it was about 15 feet under."
Collins said he went on to his lunch meeting.
"I told the guy what happened. He said, 'That's unbelievable! Let's go back to the grate and get it!'," Collins said. "I said, 'I don't think it's gonna be that easy.'"
But the lunch partner confidently told him, "The two of us can do it!"
The two men went back and held their phones over the grate, trying to shine a light on the missing ring. Then they realized that was probably an easy way for them to drop their phones, too, so they backed away.
Collins talked to the doorman of the building by the grate, then to a police officer walking by. The officer said to call 311. But 311 couldn't help.
"I come back to the doorman and ask if the maintenance guy has access," Collins said. "And he's the one who said, 'I think that's Con Ed.'"
Operators for the utility rolled Collins from gas leak concerns to bill pay and finally "to a very nice lady in customer service who said, 'You know, OK, I'll put you on the list but it's not an emergency because it's not a gas leak or anything like that, but we'll get to it when we can.'"
That was last week. The wait was agonizing.
"Every day since, I had to walk by here and pass over this grate, I would peer down and go, 'Oh, it's there,'" said Collins, who also contacted NBC 4 New York in his quest to get back his ring.
"I knew it was safe where it was, until someone came to get it, but it was eating at me, that I know it's right down there, if they could just come and get it out," he said.
Finally, on Wednesday, after NBC 4 New York reached out on behalf of Collins, Con Edison sent a crew to the grate. Operations supervisor Kaitlin Slattery said after getting a call from her manager she rounded up a crew a few blocks away.
"At first they thought we were kidding, they were like 'There's no way someone lost their wedding ring down a vault,'" said Slattery, laughing. "I was like, 'I promise, it's real!'"
At the scene, two workers put up the familiar orange and white barriers, flipped open the grate and used a ladder to descend underground.
Then, with little fanfare, a worker popped up from the ladder and stretched out his gloved hand toward Collins, ring firmly in his grip.
"Whoa, there we go!" exclaimed Collins.
"Back where it belongs," he said, slipping his ring back on.
Collins thanked the Con Edison workers. He vows to be more careful: "I'll always be paranoid about it now."
For all of his fretting, though, Collins' wife remained calm.
"She was like, 'Come on, it's not like an engagement ring, it's not that expensive. If you don't get it, you just buy another one," he said.
"I would have made up a better story if I was making up a story," he quipped.