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Sometimes it’s hard to figure out who to believe.
I saw an ad online recently that went on about the thousands of dollars just waiting to be had if only I would call now with credit card handy and buy my very own pay phone. It was strongly recommended that I consider buying the new DTP 3000 Tabletop High Security Pay Phone. I was impressed already. The ad copy assured me that this little beauty was perfect for someone like me who wanted my own coin-operated pay phone for indoor use. It has the durability of steel construction and the cash box holds approximately $125 in coins. As an added measure, the pay phone is fully programmable by the keypad to the owner. I guess that’s good although I don’t know exactly what that means. Anyway, once I received the pay phone, the ad said, all I’d have to do is set it up somewhere and wait for people to come along and pour lots of money into it.
Well, the other day I read an article in the newspaper telling me about how pay phones are becoming few and far between around Maine because most people these days prefer to use their cell phones instead. So it’s a good thing I hadn’t placed that call yet to those pay phone people with my credit card handy.
I do a lot of traveling around Maine and I have to admit that I’ve often wished there were more pay phones around. Often I’ve been driving along a hilly stretch of road talking about very important things (like all cell phone users) when my cell phone service suddenly ends just as I’m getting to the important part of my call – if there was an important part. Once I realize that I’m talking but no one is listening I start yelling things I’d never yell in polite company. There I am yelling at a small, dumb, useless object in my hand, and I have no idea when this useless object went dead and or when it will suddenly become useful again.
When I remember the pay phones that stood outside almost every store in every Maine town I also remember that these phones far from ideal, especially in the rain or when overloaded pulp trucks rumbled by as I was trying to write down important information. Still, I still miss them.
Now I read that they’re disappearing fast. Of the 8,200 pay phones that were available to the public here in Maine in 1998 there were only 4,500 by 2003. At the same time the number of cell phones surpassed the number of land lines. Some people here in Maine are concerned by the trend.
In Augusta, they’re talking about putting public interest pay phones in certain areas of the state, like those out of the reach of cell towers or in low-income neighborhoods where fewer people have cell phones. We also might want some in remote areas frequented by tourists. All in all, not a bad idea.
If you can believe it.
John McDonald is a humorist and storyteller who performs regularly
throughout New England. John’s e-mail address is
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