Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Extinction of the Phone Booth

Just this past weekend while driving along highway 540 on the western part of Manitoulin Island, I saw a sight that forced me to slow down, stop and take a photo. It wasn’t a stunning scene of natural beauty; it was simply a telephone booth - just a plain, everyday, normal Bell Canada telephone booth. There was absolutely nothing unique or antique looking about it. However, it was a sight to behold.

It forced me to ask my wife when she had last seen a telephone booth and she couldn’t remember. To the best of my recollection my last time was while watching a Superman movie with Clark Kent jumping into a phone booth to do his quick change. My 10-year old daughter didn’t even know what a phone booth was until we explained it to her.

Yes, there are still pay phones, mostly in malls and airports. They aren’t phone booths anymore but rather rows of phones that leave you open and exposed to the world. A phone booth was a little privacy enclave where you could close the door and shut out the world and the surrounding noise. While I know that the evolution and mass adoption of the cell phone has almost eliminated the need for phone booths and payphones in general, I can’t help but reminisce about them and long for the day when they were located at virtually every major road intersection.

Both my wife and I (and I’ll assume many of you) will remember how our mothers insisted that we carry a dime (10 cents) and later a quarter with us at all times just in case we had to call home for some an foreseen emergency. There is even a famous story about Frank Sinatra being buried with a dime in case he wanted to reach out to anyone.

I remember being in various office buildings and hotels where on one side of the main lobby there would be rows of phone booths with either full size or half sized doors to protect the privacy of the phone call. Alas, with so many people speaking on their cell phones in public, I guess the concept of privacy during a phone call is another thing relegated to the “good old days”.

While I’ll make no claims that the phone booth I saw was the last one in Canada, I’m sure it is one of a very quickly disappearing breed. If this were an animal it would already be on the endangered species list. So I guess my kids will grow up without the memory of being caught somewhere in a sudden down pour and having to squeeze into a phone booth with their friends just to stay dry.

Please share your own phone booth memory, or perhaps even a photo of a surviving one near you by using blog comment feature.

1 comment:

  1. I'm an old fart and often wax nostalgic about the good old days. I was just thinking about the vanishing phone booths on the weekend. I was shopping in Yorkville and looking for a specific shop that seemed to have vanished. I don't use my cell phone to surf the web, just to make and receive calls, so I would have loved to find an old fashioned phone booth with a phone book inside. Inside I called a friend and asked her to check online to see if the shop had moved, and it had.