Problem Solving 101 – I Retrieve my Earbud From a Street Drain During my Daily Walk

Many times, I envisioned losing 1 of my earbuds down a street drain during my daily walks of podcast listening. Always taking precautions, there were many times 1 has fallen out, bouncing about but stopping such that I could retrieve it. Then it happened. During my daily covid walk, I came upon the street drain I looked at many times, to dispose of my apple core. The apple core hit the grate and stayed on top. My earbud, however, without warning, followed a smooth arcing downward trajectory, through the middle of the grates, resting 3 feet down. Done! I had it coming. I was totally at fault. I came close to the grate to dispose of my apple core and my earbud was disposed of instead. In disbelief, I continued my walk, coming to terms with my misfortune.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I couldn’t have cared less about losing an Apple earbud, despite the near $300 price tag and a Christmas present from my wife several years ago. But the sheer stupidity of how I lost the earbud due to my own stupor, was the most annoying part. At least if I lost it rescuing a pet or someone whose safety or even life was in danger. Well, that would have made it worthwhile. But to lose it while in a blind mental stupor, so paralyzed that I didn’t even attempt with a reactive arm swing to bat it onto the road and at least a chance to save it.

I quickly succumbed to my long envisioned loss of an earbud down a street drain. I was in an emotional down point, deep in thought, during that noon-hour walk which prevented me from quickly reacting and reaching out to kick the earbud away from the drain and onto the street for another chance of not losing it. But my response and reaction were totally muted. Another faux pas due to my own negligence. I finished my 30-minute walk, listening to my podcast on the remaining earbud, already accepting the faith of my fallin earbud, still being able to use it to listen, albeit in an unbalanced, 1-ear only setup.

Very early next day, upon awakening and still in half sleep, I began my workday, still sulking somewhat, but more accepting of the done deal. Then, I started thinking. Did I miss something? Could I take a shot at recovering it? Never say never, as you heard many times. I decided, why not.

Being a natural-born “I am a FIXER“, I quickly mapped out a mental plan of how I can attempt to recover it. After all, the drain, was a street drain and not a sewer drain. It’s base landing platform was only 3 feet down, and easily visible, on some light snow and packed debris collected over the past summer. Again, I couldn’t have cared about the cost. It was the challenge alone, that was starting to drive me crazy. I couldn’t let it go, at least, not without a good try.

Mentally, I quickly mapped out my plan. The recovery was 2 steps.

  1. Step #1 was to first find and make visible, the earbud on the snow in the drain. White on white wasn’t making it easy. Is it there? Or did it bounce off a top melted crust and into the deeper side drain?
  2. Step #2 would be easier, and only possible if #1 above was a success – recovery – pulling it out

So for the above 2 steps, I needed 2 tools, which I easily created shown below;

Step #1 tool – a “hook-end” so I can easily dig up the top layer of snow, to locate the earbud

The claw would allow me to dig within 2 inches of the snow surface, assuming that its’ mass drove it below the top layer of snow, burying it. Being pure white, the earbud even lying on top of white snow, would be very hard to see.







Step #2 tool – “the claw retriever” – grab and hold device

These wooden fingers arranged in a circular pattern would allow me to “spear” the earbud from above. With a band of scotchtape placed halfway up, it would provide more springy suspension onto the finger pattern. This would allow the skewers to “grab and hold” the earbud, so I can then pull it up. This was inspired from a video I watched of aboriginals catching fish with a similar multi-head spear.









After going thru many design facets mentally, my problem-solving skills kicked in. I eliminated all creations, except for this one. I made a circular claw out of wooden skewers my wife has for our shish-ka-bobs. I took one of her 3 foot long plant supports, which was rigid, and to the end, I taped an assembly of the pointed spears, forming a claw that would encase and hold the earbud allowing me to hoist it out. I then tested it with the remaining earbud, and it worked as I had envisioned in my mind.

I also had to do my rescue within a day. There were several cars parking beside this drain and I feared they would push heavier, dirty snow and ice into the drain, completely covering my earbud. There was also fresh snowfall on the way. I had to do during the peak daylight hour, to gain as much visibility from the precious rays of the sun. Luckily, the day I chose, was full sun and no additional snow and ice pushed into the drain.

As I walked to the street drain with my spear, I thought, it is now or never. When I arrived I quickly looked into the drain and there it lay; on top of the snow and in 1 corner. Step #1 – locating the earbud” was easily completed. Now it was up to step #2, “the claw” to grasp and retrieve. Within 1 minute, I gently lowered the claw, encased it around the earbud and slowly pulled it out. Done. That was much easier than I had envisioned it. My hand-made claw worked like a charm!


So, never be quick to say never. After you relax, recompose yourself, and level out, go through your options. Don’t succumb and accept the outcome all too fast. An error made on your part, yes. But consider yourself in recovery mode and an attempt to recover something lost.

How about you? Do you come across challenges or problems? How do you first react to them? Do you just give up, beat yourself up perhaps and move on? And if you do decide to tackle them with a fight, do you have a sound problem-solving technique that is methodical and works for you? If not, I hope you work towards that. Problem-solving is 1 of many soft skills that will always be in high demand from anyone, in almost every job.

Here are my quick problem solving steps;

  1. Assess the situation – what is the exact problem – you need to define the problem as clearly as possible – into clear byte-sized actions
  2. Assess your options – be realistic – are some of the options/solutions within your reach? viable? realistic?
  3. Break the solutions into manageable stepping stones
  4. Take quick action – don’t wait – you may start talking yourself out of trying something new

Happy problem-solving. That’s what this website is all about – developing your Soft Skills. And problem-solving is a huge skill that will always be needed in any situation, workplace, or job. Think of problem-solving as a game, a puzzle, as a game. And keep developing your problem-solving skills. It is actually alot of fun and very rewarding and fulfilling. Happy Solving!

Posted in


I am a video marketer, videographer, blogger, story teller - always looking for the next story - YOUR story.I coach and write soft skills articles based on my experience to help you become a better speaker, leader, presenter and influencer.I capture and deliver your story in video so you can best connect with your audience.