RYAN BAKKEN: Payphones still exist, but it's more popular to ditch land line for life line
I spotted a rarity as I drove through Donaldson, Minn., on Friday. It was a payphone, attached to a small, brick, unadorned, unnamed building. One rarely sees payphones anymore. That seems especially true in towns of 41 people, as Donaldson boast...
I spotted a rarity as I drove through Donaldson, Minn., on Friday. It was a payphone, attached to a small, brick, unadorned, unnamed building.
One rarely sees payphones anymore. That seems especially true in towns of 41 people, as Donaldson boasts. Maybe it has even fewer than 41 after the September storm that sent winds of 121 miles per hour through town. Maybe a few residents were blown to Karlstad and decided to stay there.
Anyway, ever the Curious George, I wondered if the payphone worked. So I pulled a U-turn, confident that Donaldson had no cops.
A 2011 Wikstrom Telephone book suggested that the payphone did work. So did the dial tone.
The proud owner of a quarter and a neighboring friend who didn't require long distance, I decided to use the payphone for nostalgia's sake. The last time I used a payphone was probably the last time I used butch wax, which was probably the last time I had hair.
Alas, the second numerical button I pushed became stuck. That meant I couldn't push the remaining five numbers to complete the call. Perhaps the buttons were gummed up by the dust from the 121-mph winds. Perhaps someone spilled their Mountain Dew on it. Whatever the reason, my trip down memory lane was derailed.
The good news is that I got my quarter back.
The other good news is that I got a column idea out of it. It's this: Phones may be the biggest change in our culture over the last 10 years.
Many adults have dropped their land line because it's so unnecessary. Others who still have a land line are so embarrassed by that fact that they have their number unlisted. We have a listed land line, further entrenching our status as world-class nerds.
Meanwhile, most everyone owns a cell phone by age 12 (or is it even younger now?). My work desk has a window view of Grand Forks Central's front door, allowing me this observation: Ninety-five percent of GFC students are staring at their cell phones before they take three steps out of door. The other five percent does it before reaching the sidewalk.
Cell phones are their life line. Given a choice between a cell and a car, I believe most would take the former.
That's because a cell phone has more options than a car.
I don't use my phone to take photographs or stream video or search the Internet. But I have learned how to text.
I've learned out of necessity. That's because people are decidedly more likely to return your text than return your call.
That leads to today's three conclusions about phones: 1) Working payphones are rare; 2) Cell phones allow us to communicate more; and 3) Cell phones allow us to communicate less.
Reach Bakken at (701) 780-1125; (800) 477-6572, ext. 125; or send e-mail to email@example.com .