Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Pay phone culture

I've been watching the slow death of the public pay phone in New York City since I moved here ten years ago. I'm not sure if I've ever really thought about this before, but I noticed it again tonight. The type of people and conversations I notice has changed. The cell phone was already taking over even a decade ago, but pay phones were still much more of a social leveler. People of (almost) all creeds, colors and classes had to put their fingers and their ears on the greasy receivers if they needed to make a call on the street.

Maybe I'm overgeneralizing here, but now, a startling percentage of the pay phone talk I hear has an edge of desperation and is about money - money owed to the caller or, more often, by the caller. Pleas for just another week to pay a bill, demands for badly needed money to be repaid - from people who've apparently hit such a bad spot they can't even afford the $50 monthly bills on their cell phones anymore.

There must have been even more of these calls back then, in sheer numbers. But I notice them more now, pay phone conversations having become relatively rare.

I don't really have anything profound to add to that. There it is.

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