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Reply to Say Uncle’s Post on Phones

Say Uncle has a post regarding pay phones that prompted the following memories and comment from me:

Several weeks ago my wife and I went to a restaurant to meet her parents and both assumed the other had brought their cell phone. The inlaws were late so we wanted to call and see if the plans had changed but didn’t know what to do. I pondered asking to borrow a cell phone. Finally I took a chance and discovered a pay phone near the bathrooms. I inserted my money–no I don’t remember how much but I think it was $.50–and suddenly was sucked back in time. The influx of thoughts was overwhelming!

How many rings before voicemail kicks in and takes my money? Remember the old collect call trick where you’d use a code name to jingle the folks to let them know you were ok? You know, the one where the operator says, “will you accept a call from Mr. I. M. Fine?” and they say “no” to avoid the charges but can now rest easy? The thrill at checking the coin return and finding change. The digust at finding moist, chewed gum. The scare of a prick of a need (ala pre-Internet urban legends). That smell! Holding the phone close to your ear and mouth but dare not touching it. Remember dialing numbers without using the dial or buttons? Anyone carry a pocket tone generator? Remember the secret combination of digits that would let you dial anywhere in the world for free? Remember the fear of the FBI dropping down on you? The unusual feeling of being tied down by the leash of the cord which is always positioned between two busy restroom doors.

One voicemail and a second call later reveals the inlaws to be in the parking lot and then we see them walking into the restaurant with cell phone to ear. Life is normal again.

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