13 February 2010

I Never Have Trouble Finding a Pay Phone

There have been a lot of stories in recent years about the growing scarcity of public pay phones. I don't know. Maybe I have a weird honing device in my head for arcane machinery, but I never have trouble finding a pay phone. I use them fairly often and I know just where to look. The grungier looking delis and pizzerias usually have one outside. Old bars and restaurants keep a pay phone inside out of habit, particularly if they have a roomy vestibule just inside the entrance. Blocks near police stations are a good bet. Gas stations, too. And any mass transportation hub, like LIRR stations or Port Authority. And, for some reason, badly kept, dirty city blocks are more likely to have a pay phone than clean ones.

I never owned a cell phone until Christmas 2006, when my wife gave me one. Until then, I relied on land lines. I was aware that people treating me as a sort of freak because of this, but some actually expressed their admiration and envy that I could get away with such a principled quirk. I liked and hated having the cell. It was helpful in arranging play dates for my son. And I seemed to get more calls from my cell-addicted siblings than I had before. Still, mainly I felt most of the incoming calls I was getting dealt with a lot of unnecessary stuff, and confirmed my belief that people don't need to talk, at that moment, about most of the stuff they talk about on cell phones. And, unlike most of humanity, I felt like a jerk whenever I used my cell in public.

My cell phone just kinda konked out last September. There was some talk for a while in my house of replacing it. But that hasn't happened, and I don't feel I'm missing anything. No one's complaining I'm hard to get ahold of. And I can walk the street without feeling I'm on a mechanical leash.

When I do need to call home, and aren't in an office, I do it by pay phone. This is more than easy. And it only costs a quarter. The thieves at Verizon charged me more than that just to receive a text message on my cell.

Above is a cool map from Gothamist of the 16,258 pay phones still left in the city. That's down from 33,335 in 2000. But still a lot. The top-used phones seem to fall into my criteria stated above: transportation centers, police stations, and gritty intersections. The northwest corner of 42nd and 8th. Yeah, I know that phone.

In my area, there's a pay phone by the President Street entrance to the Carroll Street F train stop; the northwest corner of Court and First Place; the Shell station on Atlantic and Henry; the southwest corner of Court and Kane; outside Cobble Hill Cinemas on Court; outside the Optimo shop on the north west corner of Court and Degraw; the northeast corner of Court and President (near the check cashing place; very popular) the northwest corner of Court and Sackett; the northeast corner of Court and Union; midblock on Court between Degraw and Douglass, outside the vacuum cleaner shop. There are more.


Ed said...

I also found that when I got a cellphone I just didn;t use it much. Its main purpose seems to be the mechanical lease aspect, to give my girlfriend assurance that she can check on me anytime. I find any calls I have to make can wait until I get to a landline, where the calls come in clearer anyway.

This actually has increased my impatience with people who use the sidewalks as sort of an outdoor phone booth/ conference center. And though people use cell phones in other cities, nowhere else do you see this behavior as much as New York for some reason (London comes close, but no place else I have been too is in the same ballpark).

old skool said...

Brooks, I am willing to bet that the term "Social networking" has no place in your vocab. Me too. A twit is some asshole on a cell phone in a public place. LIke I need to hear about what is going on in your miserable life.

Brooks of Sheffield said...

Yes, Ed, hate to say it, and nothing against my lovely and talented Wife, but she loved the idea that she could find me wherever I happened to be. Not for any particular reason. Just find me.

I'm not a social phoner, I'm afraid. I have a short amount of patience for phone calls that don't have a practical purpose.

BrooksNYC said...

Kudos to you for not replacing your defunk cell phone! I have a cell because it's my only phone, but the thought that I could be victimized anywhere at any time is so appalling to me that I often go weeks without turning the sucker on.

Using a pay phone requires effort and commitment — a plus. People are less inclined to call impulsively and yammer on endlessly when they have to find a phone, dig for quarters, and be mindful of others waiting to use the phone.

I miss phone booths. The fazing out of phone booths was a huge loss to civilization. The best thing about phone booths was that no one outside the booth was obliged to listen to your conversation!

BrooksNYC said...

("Defunk"....my God, did I really write that?? Next time, you're more than welcome to correct my typos. Save me from myself!)