Anna Jane Grossman, author of Obsolete: an Encyclopedia of Once-Common Things Passing Us By, offers passers-by a quarter to use pay phones on 3rd Avenue as a way of making the point that no one uses pay phones anymore. A few seem completely unacquainted with the devices. (One guy, conversely, seems not to know much about cell phones; he is revealed to be something of a nut.) A woman says the phones are “disgusting”; Grossman reflects that she’s never noticed anyone cleaning a pay phone, which may explain their condition. (At the city’s Information Technology and Telecommunication’s Pay-Phone FAQ page, we are told that inspections are “conducted during the life of the phone to ensure that it is in working order and is properly maintained by the pay telephone company.” Call 311! But from a cell phone.) Others find the quality of pay-phone transmission lousy. (At least they found some that work.) Moral: Nostalgia has its limits.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 16, 2009