Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Plight of the Pay Phone

I was reading a post over on Frugal Dad titled "15 Things Our Grandparents Lived Without (and We Probably Could, Too)".   Item #3 was cell phones.   I remember getting my first cell phone in college.   It wasn't quite the bag phone that my grandma had (see?  She had a cell phone too), but it had it's own zipper case.   I got a droid phone at the beginning of the year. Now it's hard to imagine life without a smart phone. 

Except when I was in Tanzania earlier this year.   There it was great to be disconnected to TV, news, phones, facebook, and the world at large.   Yet another justification for vacation. of the many comments on that blog post was about the disappearance of pay phones.   Living without a cell phone was easier when everyone had a home phone and public phones were readily available.   Drive by a gas station and you may see the familiar phone box / stand is empty.  I work in a large hotel with over 1000 rooms and 600 employees.  We have exactly two pay phones.  Someone who doesn't have a cell phone who needs to make a phone call will have a hard time contacting their friends, family or even the EMT's unless they stay home - or grab their friend's phone.  (Maybe some people CAN live without cell phones - as long as people they know have them....hmmm).  

Someone walking around downtown Denver looking for a pay phone might find it a bit of a challenge.  They are better off asking a complete stranger to make a call for them or to borrow their phone.  Even in developing nations cell phones have become big (and micro) business because they reach places that never had phone lines. 

Quick college story about life before cell phones:  I used to give tours of my dorm building (LAR for you U of I folks).   A few ladies who graduated in 1957 came by to see their old home.   There used to be one phone on each floor and someone would buzz your room if the call was for you.   They would leave a bobby pin on top of the buzzer in their room.   If they came home and saw the pin on the floor they would know that someone called for them while they were away.  It was the pre-answering machine.

There are some other things on that list that I do live without:  #2 Tanning Beds, #6 Electronic Book Readers, #7 Digital Cable, #9 Plasma TV, #11 Xbox/Playstation/Wii, and #14 Student Loans.

#10 Satellite Radio?  It was a life saver on my New Mexico road trip earlier this year, but I don't use it daily.   My ipod fills that gap (and it wasn't on this list). 

On the flip side, although I like maps, I also appreciate the GPS (#1) on my phone.   And don't go trying to take away my microwave (#3)!

1 comment:

  1. I love the story about pins on the buzzer.

    One thing that I miss is that when I was a child, not everybody had home phones in my neighborhood. So, it was perfectly fine to come knock on someone's door to see if they are home and if they have time to catch up. Nowadays, it wouldn't be acceptable. You always have to call before visiting someone. I have a friend who lives 3 blocks away, but I don't dare to just drop by.

    In regards to the downfall of payphones, there is still a lot of them throughout the city. Any supermarket has them, and so do all shopping malls and shopping centers. There are several phones at the Denver Public Library. It's not that difficult to find a phone, really.



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