• death of the phone booth

    April 7th, 2008mr meanerurban living

    iPhone!On a recent trip to Silverlake in LA, I had my iPhone pressed to my face listening to a voicemail about something so uninteresting that I won’t even begin to explain it.

    I was also typing away a message on my BlackBerry at the same time, my remaining brain cells were having difficulty keeping aligned and delivering the right thought processes for me to be remotely competent at either endeavor. A bit like walking and chewing gum can (allegedly) be difficult for some people.

    The traffic on Sunset was pretty heavy (it being Saturday lunchtime) so I sought shelter in a natural place. So natural, in fact, that I felt a calm come over me and a sense of being “in the right” that is very rare.

    Damaged Phone BoothI was in a relic known as a “phone booth”, once the ubiquitous item of urban decorative utility found every few hundred feet or so along most city streets.

    Indeed, I recall a story in from the 1980s about bidding wars between telcos for prime locations to place a ‘phone booth. These corporate idiots, who probably thought a cellphone about as far-fetched as the communicator from Star Trek were paying up to $50,000 (yes, that’s 200,000 quarters JUST TO BREAK EVEN in cash) to cities for long term rights to lease 6 sq. ft. of real-estate.

    Of course, those leases came with dilapidation clauses and long term liability which, combined with decades of regulatory philandering, bankruptcies and in-booth drug deals have rendered these once valuable oases of purpose about as relevant as shoulder pads.

    As I ducked for cover, I snapped the picture above and remembered the age-old real estate adage that there are three things important: “Location, location and LOCATION!”. What I needed was a LOCATION, and there was one right where I happened to be.

    BlackBerry 9000Sadly, it looks as though it was at least five years since a call was made from that LOCATION, but I was standing there in sun drenched harmony listening to my voicemail and emailing at the same time. A thing that would have been unheard of when PacBell probably paid the City of LA $10,000 for that LOCATION back in the late 80s.

    How times change. I’ll take my BlackBerry over a ‘phone booth anytime.

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