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This is one of those stories you couldn’t possibly make up even though it arose from one of the most widespread neurosis of modern humans. That is, the irrational attachment to the most important device in most of our lives. I speak of the cellular telephone.

On the afternoon of April 19th, both the Brinnon, Washington, Fire Department and the Quilcene Fire Rescue team responded to an emergency call from a woman near the top of Mt. Walker in the Olympic National Park. The woman, in her 40s and presumably old enough to know better, had fallen into a vault toilet. For those who aren’t familiar with the term, a vault toilet is another name for a pit toilet, which is basically an outhouse or port-a-potty with a permanent structure built around it.

Here’s what happened. The woman was using the toilet when she dropped her phone down into the toilet. Okay, let’s pause right there. If I drop my phone into the darkness of a national park’s outhouse pit, that cell phone has crossed over to the other side. It’s gone, disappeared, history. And, Lord no, I don’t want it back. But this woman wasn’t giving up. She then attempted to “dismantle,” according to the Brinnon Fire Chief’s report, the toilet in a bid to retrieve it. She dismantled both the seat and its housing.

At this point, the cell phone was still beyond her reach. So what she decided to do was use a dog leash to fish it out. I’m not sure how this would have worked in the best of circumstances. Anyway, it didn’t work. So she tried to use the leash to support herself as she ventured into the toilet.

The leash “failed” (again, the Fire Chief’s word), and she fell head-first into the pit. The report spares us the details here, which is probably a good thing. But she did find her phone. Miraculously, it still functioned.

She spent the next 15 to 20 minutes attempting to extricate herself from the toilet pit. This was another thing that didn’t work. So she did what anybody in this situation would do. She dialed 911.

Brinnon FD Resue 41 and Quilcene F&R Aid 21 responded and found the woman exactly in the predicament described. The crew passed her lengths of wood to construct a platform. When it was tall enough, the crew pulled her to safety. The woman stated that she was uninjured and did not need transport. She was “washed down” and given a Tyvek suit to wear. She declined to be identified, which was probably the smartest thing she’d done all day.

Remember this woman when you’re having a lousy day. No matter how lousy it is, it’s probably a good sight better than hers.

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