Wednesday, August 12, 2009


After posting my cell phone smite post last week I realized the only time I use my cell phone would be about the same if I had to use a pay phone in the old days. Like a pay phone that is ringing I always answer it to find the call wasn’t for me.

Pay phones are becoming increasingly rare. One would see them everywhere years ago. For those of you too young to have ever seen one, they used to actually be glass booths. There were doors on them, but I suppose someone got trapped in one once so all the doors were removed. If they were indoors like in a hotel lobby they would often be elaborate wooden booths with fans and lights that would turn on when the door was closed.

Depending on where the booth was you could find a clean environment or ones that were littered with graffiti and smelled of urine. Phone books could often be found in them early in the life of the phone book, but after a couple months they were usually gone or missing many pages.

Phone boots were mostly used for emergencies or to get out of the rain. They were the communication tool of the impoverished. They were often the communication tools of the desperate and even more so if that was where you took all your incoming calls.

I can’t recall the last time I used a pay phone. It was probably before I was old enough to drive and I had to call home for a ride.

I grew up in a primitive time when it was hard to envision the eventual end of times for things such as phone booths. No matter how cool Dick Tracy’s two-way wrist radio was to us, we just didn’t see it as anything that was possible. This was a time long before microprocessors, before the dawn of the age of transistors. Back then if you turned on your radio or TV you had to wait for it to warm up before it would work. I miss the quality of entertainment that came through vacuum tube electronics, but I’m not sure I’d want to return to those times when if you had a problem with your set you’d take your vacuum tubes and test them at Woolworths and pay an exorbitant sum of money to replace one of them.

In conclusion, I’m glad we have cell phones, I just can’t understand using them to chat, but then I’m old school and I’m not a chatter.


Blogger Auntie said...

In my hometown of 200 people, it was fun to hang out in the phone booth in "town".

Yeah, there was only one. We always had to stop to see if there was an extra nickel or dime in there.

Some townsfolk used it like their regular phone, i.e., they didn't have a home phone. Old people.

And remember seeing pics of folks piling in a phone booth to see how many could fit? Guy, being in such a crush would probably kill you, all those people in small confined space. You could probably smell not only their b.o., but also what they had eaten for lunch. EW.

Almost begs for a cartoon with you towards the bottom of the heap. :)

5:33 AM  
Anonymous dalia said...

i last used one about three years ago. my friend who is cell-phone-less uses them all the time (the horror!)

6:34 AM  
Blogger darev2005 said...

Ah... yes. For some odd reason the last couple of months I have decided that I must have a phone booth. It just sneaked into the back of my mind and now I am determined that some day my house will have a phone booth in it somewhere. Yes, with a working light and fan and a phone book chained below the shelf. The wife and kid think I'm a nut.

6:36 AM  
Blogger Zoe said...

It must be getting increasingly more difficult for Superman to save the world, now that phone booths aren't just around every bend.

7:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Over the years, pay phones and the amount of coinage required to make a connection have given blues and country musicians some powerful material to sing about. In fact Saturday night I saw Boz Scaggs perform "Somebody loan Me a Dime" as his second of three encores. It was perfect.

9:28 AM  
Blogger Tango said...

The last time I used one, it took a dime. That was a long time ago and I can't even remember why I had to use one. I have always hated talking on phones, but I spend much time answering them at work every night. I'd much rather e-mail people. That way I can do it when it's a good time for me to do so.

11:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My niece visiting from small town nowhere was excited to see an actual phone booth last week. She was totally amazed any workign phone booths still existed.


9:25 PM  
Blogger Nulaanne said...

My concern about the phone booths disaperaing and everyone getting a cell phone is where is Superman going to change clothes?

10:06 PM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

Auntie, draw on!

Dalia, I'm glad you survived.

Darev, that could be pretty cool. Start shopping now or you'll have to build one from scratch.

Zoe and Nulaanne, Don't know if you guys heard, but Superman died a couple years ago. There was a horse involved and all...

Critter, you still have one over there? Damn, I'll have to come and look at it.

Anon, any idea what it cost for a three minute local call these days?

Tango, Maybe we need to invent e-mail booths...

5:36 AM  
Blogger Mom of Three said...

Funny you should mention this, because I just came across a site the other night that listed where you could still find pay phones in a given area. That's how rare they've become.

In California, we had call boxes on the side of the roads, every 1/4 mile on busy stretches. But with the advent of cell phones, I think they've stopped funding those.

12:06 PM  

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