Just before midnight, a man standing on a sidewalk near the Olive Garden in Times Square decided that the spot was romantic enough.
The sidewalk itself is nondescript. It is wide enough for shoppers to hustle down the street. The gutters sparkle with trash.
And then, the proposal turned south.
His girlfriend said yes, the New York Police Department said Saturday, but the unidentified man fumbled the engagement ring. It bounced eight feet into a utility grate.
At least, that was the original story according to the police. The details appeared to have shifted as the weekend wore on, social media caught fire and the couple revealed themselves as John Drennan, 36, and Daniella Anthony, 34, of the United Kingdom.
The proposal had actually happened earlier, in Central Park, the New York Times reported Sunday. But the ring was too small, slipped off her finger and bounced into the grate.
A short surveillance video released by the department shows the apparently flustered Drennan, his hands thrust out like a comedian pleading with a crowd after a bad joke. Anthony bent down to assess the fall as Drennan sprawled out to peer into the abyss.
The couple flagged down officers in the area for help, Sgt. Lee Jones, a department spokeswoman, told The Washington Post on Sunday. But they could not retrieve the ring. The couple left without filing a police report or providing their contact information.
Officers returned to the scene on Saturday morning, removed the grate and recovered the ring, then launched a social media campaign to find the couple.
Nearly 30,000 people have retweeted the video since Saturday, drawing numerous puns from the public. One choice response, channeling Beyoncé: “He should have put a string on it.”
The department cleaned the ring and posted photos of it taped to a chair on social media, along with surveillance photos of the couple.
It was not immediately clear why the NYPD’s summary of events diverged from the couple’s story provided to the Times — namely, where and how Drennan proposed in Central Park rather than a bleak sidewalk.
Social medial users had blasted Drennan for that apparent choice, he told the Times. The department did not immediately return a request for comment about the discrepancy.
The incident left the couple dumbstruck.
“That would never happen anywhere else in the world,” Drennan told the Times. “It’s just incredible.”
They plan to marry in 2020, the paper reported.
This story has been updated to reflect New York police finding the couple.