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The Case of the Disappearing Pay Phone

I don’t have a cell phone. Almost everyone else has one, so most people do a double take when they first learn that I don’t. I don’t have a particularly good reason, and it’s definitely inconvenient, both for me and my friends and family.

Still, I don’t have a cell phone. It’s not even that I’m a privacy freak; there are plenty of anonymous and prepaid cell phone plans that would satisfy me. I just don’t want one at all.

I have a landline in my apartment, of course, and a phone at work. I spend a fair amount of time away from both, though.

When I’m with my friends, they grumble, but they’ll lend me their cell phones. If I’m on my own, though, I use pay phones. I probably use a pay phone three or four times a week. I used to say that I’d get a cell phone when I saw pay phones start to disappear, but sadly, that happened a long time ago. Given that, this AP article made me very, very scared.

Drivers’ licenses, credit cards, and internet connectivity are all more or less required to live a normal life in the 21st century. It’s insidious, but it’s a fact of life. Cell phones are probably the next addition to that list. Sigh…

From the article:

With rising cell phone use and vandalism and neglect taking their toll, pay phones are disappearing around the nation. Consumer activists and advocates for the poor have protested the drop in numbers – saying that public phones are necessary in emergencies and represent a lifeline for those who can’t afford a cell phone or even a landline.

“If you have a cell phone, you hardly look for the pay phones,” said 25-year-old Sayed Mizan, listening to his iPod on a subway platform. “Besides, most of the time if you see the pay phones, they’re either out of order or they’re too filthy to touch.”

Nationwide, the number of pay phones has dropped by half to approximately 1 million over the last nine years, according to an estimate by the American Public Communications Council, a trade association for independent pay phone operators.

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4 thoughts on “The Case of the Disappearing Pay Phone

  1. Great post… and you know I have such a weakness for payphones myself! Just yesterday I took a photo in L.A. of two payphones that had been recently ripped out/uninstalled. I posted it to Flickr here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/avantgame/205881152/ So sad… the sign still says “telephones” but the phone shells are empty, cords just hang out of the wall, no more phones. Also, I have a feeling you will like the section of Chapter Five in my dissertation about payphones as abandoned technologies reclaimed by ubiquitous games!

    Jane McG

  2. Ryan, tell you what, you have been such a good friend to me since I have moved out here, I am going to help pop your cell phone cherry, I have experiance with this, I just got Eric his first phone two weeks ago. So he can contest, I am gentle.

  3. to each their own> if you don’t like the whole cell phone thing then thats you. i do have a cell phone and i will agree they are a pain in the a**!

    – melissa

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