Friday, February 8, 2008


I noticed this former bank of telephones in an Oakland BART station. I forget that there used to be rows of pay phones in public places. The architects of this "modern" transportation center foresaw six people needing to talk on the phone at the same time, standing next to each other along the wall to do it. Now a single phone remains, with nobody using it. I wonder how they decided that the fifth phone should be the one that stayed. Did the other five get removed all at once, or were they phased out one at a time as demand decreased. Perhaps as they wore out or were vandalized, they just pulled them out instead of repairing them. How much longer till they get rid of the last remnant of the pre-cellular age, leaving just a mysterious row of unneeded metal panels?


sarapennington said...

I was just in NYC for five days without a cell phone. And, so, I noticed the payphones very much. There were a lot more still there than I would have imagined--it's hard to find them, especially ones that work, in other places. What I really, noticed, though, was that cell phone users were standing in the payphone areas out on the street when it was drizzly. I wonder if cell phone users are ever drawn to the niches in your photo to talk...out of an old habit, or a need for a certain sense of space?

I was in NYC with a conference, so I didn't use a payphone myself, just mooched off other folks/friends. While everyone else was making plans about when and where to meet, and text messaging constantly, I was just going with the flow.

Anonymous said...


I'll agree with Sara's comment. I've seen the same behavior in terms of cell phone use in "approved" areas to talk.

The one place where there are still plenty of pay phones is an airport. Many of those phones are fairly advanced between foreign travelers with calling cards and power users needing computer hook-ups.

My guess is that pay phones will finally disappear with the widespread use of a wi-fi trac phone or similar device that can piggy back on a free network, especially with a device like an iPhone that can switch back and forth. The trick is whether or not it will be free.

Great photo!