In Greenfield the other day we made an amazing archaeological discovery! TWO working pay telephones! We turned this into a valuable Teaching Moment for our girls, and lectured them about those strange, scattershot days when NO ONE had cell phones, and a person had to drive for miles to find a pay phone, and scrounge for coins in the car.
Then of course, the pay phone you found probably would NOT be working, because of gum or some other sticky/disgusting substance blocking the coin deposit slot. Too bad if you were 20 minutes late, or an hour and 15 minutes late, or even a day-and- a-half late getting to wherever you were going – the person who was expecting you would just have to figure it out for themselves.
At the altar of these relics of my youth, I nostalgically demonstrated for the children:
- How to check the coin return area for leftover change
- How to bang the receiver up and down and flip the coin deposit lever rapidly back and forth to encourage a broken phone to start working
- How to put on a tragic voice in order to make a collect call.
Then, we had a fascinating moment that made me appreciate Ye Olde Husband’s ingenuity, and believe that perhaps we COULD home-school these children. He actually called the number listed on one of the pay phones from his cell phone, just to see what would happen. The pay phone in front of him did NOT ring, but a phone SOMEWHERE rang, and a woman, perhaps in Greenfield, Texas, or on the International Space Station, picked up. She and Ye Olde Husband (YOH) said hello to one another. “I thought this was a pay phone,” he said, and she replied simply, “It is.” Flummoxed, YOH improvised and asked if “John” was there. The woman said she would check. She returned and reported that John was “not here right now.” YOH reassured her that he would call back, and hung up, mystified. (Does this mean we need to go back to Greenfield today, I wonder?)