Story of the Lost Wedding Ring

by Jonathan Sterne on January 6, 2005

This one takes you back in time. All the way back to the 30th of December 2004, and yes it’s the story of how I lost my wedding ring. It gets a little gross so be forewarned.

But first the story of how I got it. Carrie and I have been together for over 14 years now, but only got married in 1999 when I got a real job at Pitt and it meant that she could get real medical benefits (and an insulin pump, which was like a $6000 wedding present from the institution). We’d had the usual leftist objections to marriage, especially since we’ve got queer family and friends. So it’s not abstract to us. The wedding itself was under 5 minutes, though the party lasted for hours. We billed it as our “encounter with the state,” paired it with my graduation on the previous day, and billed it as a costume party — since all weddings are in effect costume parties already (and since grad students are more likely to have costumes than dress clothes). A few family came, though it was not a big extended-family event. Though it was cool that our families “met” (1) and became friends.

Anyway, given our attitudes toward the whole thing, you can imagine our attitudes about wedding rings. We didn’t buy them. We had no plans to, until our respective parents arrived and reacted with horror. At that point, we headed down to Bogart’s Casablanca, purveyors of fine water pipes, cheesey t-shirts, blacklight posters, and — oh yes — jewlery. We each found a nice-looking silver ring for about $15, and I paid an extra $5 or so to get mine sized right. The plan was to use them for the ceremony and then put them in the drawer and forget about them, like some of our other married friends had done.

Of course, that never happened. And over time, as with many objects in my life, I developed a sentimental attachment to it. Not that I treated it like a normal wedding ring that you never take off. I took it off every night at bedtime. I took it (and my watch) off to write or cook. For awhile I’d also take it off to play bass. I also got in the habit of taking it off when I wash my hands because I don’t like that weird feeling of water caught between my finger and the ring. You can see where this is headed.

Okay, so we’re on the flight home from Minneapolis. It’s been awhile and I need to avail myself of the facilities. So I head off to the aircraft’s rather cramped bathroom. As you may know, I am a large person, so I am acutely aware of the small space. I do my business and then in one move turn to the tiny sink and pull the ring off my finger to put it in my pocket while I wash my hands. Just like every other time I’ve washed my hands for the last five and a half years.

PLOP. It goes in the toilet.

I wish it was a “ping”, because some airplane toilets have those metal doors that only open when you flush. Then it would have been no big deal. Not this one. It’s outhouse style. I look down at the toilet and wonder what to do. The opaque blue liquid stares back at me. And so the question naturally arose: do I put my hand in a pool of other people’s excrement in order to try and retrieve a sorry-looking, banged up, $20 silver ring? The ring was of course more than that. It may have been crappy, but it was my wedding ring. I decided that the blue color of the pool meant that it was so full of chemicals that apart from grossing me out, there would be no other real repercussions to my health. I went for it. I stuck my hand in to my wrist and moved around. I felt nothing except the water. But whatever relief I felt at not touching anything solid or half-solid was tempered by the horror that I didn’t know where the bottom was.

I got up, washed my hands more thoroughly than usual (well above the wrist line), and approached a flight attendant. I explained my situation first and then asked her if she knew how deep the toilets went. She said no. I wasn’t quite ready to stick my whole arm in so I returned to my seat comforting myself with some vague fantasy about the airline designing a device to retrieve rings from their toilets. After all, they warn us about not putting things in the toilets.

No such luck. And to add insult to injury, I saw at least three other people enter and exit the bathroom (it was at the front of the plane) after I sat back down. That ring was gone. It was going to fly around Canada or the northern US with that plane, and then head off to whatever place Northwest Airlines takes its blue liquid when they’re done with it.

Carrie was suitably consoling. I asked her if she ever takes off her wedding ring. She said “almost never.” I thought about that for what seemed like an eternity.

The plane landed and I got on with my life, but because I spent so much time unconsciously fussing with the thing, I notice its absence several times a day, and wonder what I should do about a replacement.

And that’s the story of how I lost my wedding ring. (2)

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1 Our parents actually met once before, but only talked briefly about cats. They didn’t really get to know one another.

2 I showed this to Carrie before posting it, to make sure that there’s nothing too unseemly about the toilet scene (it was not modified). She practically fell over laughing at me and claims that I denied putting my hand in the toilet while on the plane. She also says she takes her ring off when she goes to bed. And she thinks it would be fun to take me shopping for a new ring at a jewlery store.

jeremy January 6, 2005 at 11:10 pm

Absolutely amazing.

Kim Dot Dammit January 9, 2005 at 9:32 am

Wow. That\’s a great story. Did make my stomach turn though. I gotta tell you, having a kid, I\’ve put my hands down more toilets than you want to know. It\’s like a weekly occurrence. In fact, your wonderful entry has inspired me to write a couple of my own, various KDDisms about toilets, wedding rings, and whatnot. Thanks for the story.

Jonathan January 9, 2005 at 10:15 am

Thanks KDD. I\’ll look forward to them. People without kids tend to have fewer occasions to do really gross things. So we think it\’s a bigger deal than it actually is. Anyway, that\’s my theory.

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