Phone Booth or Social Distancing Vestibule?


What a blast from the past! Last night, I saw a telephone booth in Boise! Just the booth, no phone or phone book because they had been removed long ago. Actually, this was not a phone booth, it was more of a phone kiosk, you know the type, a waist-high plastic window around the area where the phone sat. It would barely protect you from the rain or snow and could not double as the Clark Kent type of changing room for a cub reporter to become Superman.


In the mid-fifties, I recall gathering a herd of teenagers to cram into Emmett’s sole phone booth, trying to best the cramming record, which was about two dozen. We made it to sixteen, which told me we were either fatter or less agile than the record setters.


I didn’t use phone booths often because I needed the correct change, and I didn’t know how many quarters, dimes, and nickels it would take to deliver whatever message I had. They didn’t take dollar bills, but, back then, and especially in college, I didn’t have any dollars anyway. My parents lived in Emmett, Idaho, and I went to school down in Denton, Texas, and I used a pay phone to tell them I had arrived safely, but we had a system. I would reverse the charges and my mother would curtly refuse them, but she knew that I had arrived okay. Oh, you wascally wabbit.


But then, I had a deeper thought (rare these days, I know). The full-sized phone booth was social distancing at its best. We locked ourselves into a thirty-six-square-inch cubicle, alone, and made our call. We could be seen, but not heard. Phone calls were short because they were expensive, and they were cash-on-the-barrelhead. No credit from the phone company.

It was a long time ago and whole different world.