So I was driving along a few days ago, listening to the PopRocks channel on SiriusXM, and on comes Maroon5′s 2012 hit, Payphone. Suddenly it dawned on me that this tune, which has more hooks than a tackle box, was also fodder for my next blog.
If any product has faded from the existence of our lives, it is the pay phone. I can’t even remember the last time I used one.
Wait. How Many Are There Left?
While there are reportedly 100,000 of these devices still dotting the landscape, I am pretty sure there is a magical year, or maybe a short span of years, in the late-1990s after which our youth and young adults have no recollection of ever having used one at all. Like my daughters. They never had need to, and when they were old enough (like eight or nine) we gave them cheap cell phones.
In a much earlier life, long before cell phones, I relied on payphones like everyone else. I remember when I was in university (oh, and there’s that phrase again), and whenever I would go home for the weekend and then return to campus, Mom always wanted me to give a ring to let her know that I had made it OK.
And Then The Trickery.
But rather than incur the expense of a long distance call, Mom had a trick. She instructed me to place a collect call and ask for myself. Mom would say, “I’m sorry, he’s not here right now…” Message delivered, courtesy of AT&T.
Whew. Got that off my chest. I wonder if I should make reparations with AT&T.
I got my first cell phone, which was a Nokia bag phone, in the mid-1990s. It was not exactly the kind of thing you carried around, but it did make communicating easier while driving. That soon morphed into much more convenient flip phones, the kind that are still available today, and used by the kind of people we saw in Breaking Bad. Somewhere in that period, I unknowingly made my last pay phone call.
Of course, by then I had a handy calling card, which was basically a credit card for placing calls. After you dialed the phone number you had to punch in a long string of numbers for your account. At least I didn’t have to carry a few rolls of quarters and dimes, although I have recollections of those days as well. A fella could go broke on a long conversation.
Which gets me to my main point: How many of you have never used a pay phone? And for those who have, when was the last time?
Here’s To The Last Time.
It’s funny how in the course of using things, we seldom if ever stop to think about it possibly being the last time. When was the last time you paid cash for your fuel? When was the last time you used a typewriter? Fax machine? Alarm clock? Paper map? Cassette player? VHS video tape?
Interestingly, some things from the past have had a second lease on life, like vinyl records and film photography. But I seriously doubt we will see a revival of pay phones or any of the other items I just mentioned.
Better use one if you see one, if only to relive the past and have more stories to tell to those grand kids. Because one day they will all disappear, just like the halcyon days of our youth.
Dr “Where Have The Times Gone?” Gerlich