Where Have All the Payphones Gone?
The other night I was on a very important call with my broker -- "Immediately sell all shares in Laughable Olbermann Smugness!" -- when my piece of shit cellphone died. I do not own an iPhone or a Blackberry because I like to sometimes look up at the world, but I still feel just as helpless as any other modern sap when my chintzy Nokia talkbox stops working. "Bummer," I said, which is about as emotional as I can get anymore, because of the Internet.
I was in the middle of Dupont Circle ("gay area"), as was all the booze I was about to drink, but my charger was all the way at my house in Bloomingdale ("black area"). What to do? (And if you say, "Buy another charger," you lose for being too rich.) Well, if you can believe it, I actually asked a few complete strangers to lend me a cellphone! "I am in a clean shirt and not extremely stinky," I thought, "surely someone will help me." Ha ha ha! What a dumb idea that was.
Borrow a cellphone? Maybe in The Old Days, when they didn't even have cellphones and everyone had to communicate via nothing but earnest, elegant, handwritten letters, like poor people. But now there are Nigerian prince scams and poop sex chat lines and "phone cloning" (that is a real thing), so nobody trusts anyone else with their electronics. Which also means that if you do ask to touch someone's phone, you are treated like the rottenest son of a bitch around.
You would not believe the looks people on the street give you if you ask them for use of their cellphone. I recommend everyone try it, if only to see what it would be like to ask someone's permission to masturbate on their pillowcases. That is how disgusted people looked. One nice man in a Duke shirt even told me to "fuck off, asshole." (And you thought that famous Duke charm was a myth.)
Once I gave up on the kindness of strangers, I changed a dollar and went to a payphone. Or, at least I would have, but guess what? There are no more payphones. I walked around for fifteen minutes and couldn't find any. Exasperated, I asked a cop where the nearest payphone was and he goes, "You don't gotta cellphone?" Wha?
As someone who's fired a bow and arrow inside a home, I'm no expert on safety, but it seems dangerous to me to not have a way for people whose cellphones have died to call the fire department in case of, say, a fire. Not only that, but I'm not sure I like the message a city without payphones is sending to people who can't afford cellphones, that being, "Oh, you got beaten up and couldn't call the police? Shoulda thought of that before being poor!"
Believe me, I understand payphones are obsolete and unsightly, but so is getting stabbed to death because your cellphone died and you couldn't run fast enough. Also, if New York's taught me nothing else, it's that payphones make great urinals.