Photo ©Angel Chevrestt
Puerto Rico native Eliel Santos makes a living by reeling in jewelry, cash and electronics from beneath New York City’s sidewalk grates. Every day, he visits various parts of the Big Apple, and using dental floss and mouse trap glue, he manages to retrieve a variety of loot lost through the sidewalk grates. The urban treasure hunter peers through the small metal holes hoping to spot something worth pawning. When he notices something, he positions himself over his find and uses his tools – a line of dental floss attached to different size weights covered in mouse glue. He carefully lowers his sticky line through the grating into the darkness below and snares his booty.
Sometimes it’s just quarters. Many times, though, Santos has pulled up precious jewelry, cash and gadgets like iPhones or iPods.
Santos started his unusual retrieval business by chance. While walking down the street, he noticed that a man had dropped his keys down a grate. Santos went up to him and offered to help. After buying a sticky mouse trap at a nearby store, he attached it to a rock and tied it with string. After lowering it 15 feet through the grating, he recovered the keys and was rewarded with $50. That’s when he realized that this was a good way to make money. He started hunting in various parts of the city, looking through the grate holes for valuable items. His best catch so far was an 18k gold and diamond bracelet, which he pawned for $1,800. Once he helped a guy get back his wedding ring and was rewarded for that good deed.
On good days, Mr. Santos makes around $150, but on great days he can walk away with over $1,000. He’s retrieved many an iPhone in Times Square. It seems people often drop them while texting and walking. Most don’t even bother to try and get them out, but he does. On the day New York Post reporters followed him on one of his daily hunts, Santos found a green iPod Nano, a fake gold necklace and a pocket full of change. A good day’s work. And a good way to use dental floss. The reporter for this news piece forgot to ask Mr. Santos if he flosses, but I bet he does. Don’t you forget what you should really use it for every day.