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Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Dimes in the Payphone


Where’s my dime? I lost my dime. Help! I need to make an important phone call!

Hey mister, can you spare a dime?

For those old enough to remember, before the ever-present cellphone, there was the payphone in the phone booth. The cost per call was a mere ten cents.

Phone booths were the Starbucks of their time, on every corner, and everyone foolishly thought they’d be there forever. (Starbucks, take note.)


Without a phone booth, Colin Ferrell would never have made the movie “Phone Booth,” keeping audiences on the edge of their seats while he was trapped in a phone booth facing dire consequences, a sniper’s gun, if he hung up.

Before cellphones there was no driving and phone-talking at the same time. If you wanted to make a call, you either waited until you got home or you pulled over to the side of the road and used a payphone.

For emergency purposes, people always kept a dime or two in their pocket, or in their sock or their jock or their bra, or someplace safe where they knew it was happily snuggled until its emergency need arose.

I was always a little frightened yet drawn to payphones. At times I saw them as a living breathing bed of germs and snot and oily fingerprints and enough DNA to populate a village. But they also had their own mysterious story… what kind of conversation did the person before me have on the payphone?

I remember being in a phone booth and watching a drug addict shoot up in the adjacent phone booth. I was so entranced that I dialed the wrong number, and lost my dime. Luckily, the drug addict next to me gave me a dime.

The site of a lonely dangling phone receiver was always an omen of something terrible happening… Remember when Becky dropped the phone’s receiver after telling Roseanne and Dan she eloped with Mark and hearing Roseanne screaming from the dangling phone… scary… yet funny.

The other day I came across a payphone and it brought back the best and the worst memories:


Dirty. Gross. Germs. Fingerprints. Snot. DNA everywhere. Ooh, is that a speck of blood?

One time I got a chin infection from cradling the payphone receiver between my shoulder and chin while I wrote down driving instructions.

Another time, I walked by a ringing payphone and picked it up. The caller, a woman, started talking dirty. What did I do? I joined in and talked dirty. It was rather arousing.

Aaah… imagine a memory-tear running down my cheek as I say…

I miss the heyday era of the payphone.

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