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Becoming Obsolete:  The Tale of An Abandoned Phone Booth

Becoming Obsolete: The Tale of An Abandoned Phone Booth

Things come and go, an inevitability we all have come to accept. With the rise of the Smartphone over the last 20+ years, this is especially true for all of its predecessors from the world of portable communication. Surprisingly (mostly because it’s an inanimate object which up until today was never known to have the capabilities to express emotions of any kind) we were able to catch up with an abandoned phone booth. The phone booth asked that the following conversation be documented as a final plea of sorts; a plea to all to remember the trusted bond we humans once enjoyed with our glass-cubed distributors of dialogue: the phone booth.

Me: “I’m sorry, you’ll have to give me a moment. I need to come to terms with the fact that I’m speaking to a phone booth, and it’s responding to me.”

Phone Booth: “Not a problem. Completely understandable. I’m used to waiting for you humans….waiting for you to use me……..”

Me: (talking to myself) “OK….OK. I’m fine. This is fine. (re-engage with PB) Hey, I’m not so sure that last comment was necessary, after all, you were built with the sole purpose of serving us, as harsh as that sounds.”

PB: “HA! I know. I know. I’m just yankin’ your landline pal. Relax. I’m overwhelmed by the fact that I finally have the opportunity to talk BACK to one of you! It’s a dream come true. Wait until the rotary phone hears about this one. Son of a bitch is going to lose his handset!”

Me: “Wait, you know a rotary phone?! And you can talk to each other?! No shit? My family used to have one of those suckers. My siblings and I used to love dialing numbers from that thing.”

PB: “And it loved getting fingered just as much.”

Me: “Ex-squeeze me?”

PB: “Oh yea. Who doesn’t love a good fingertip tickle from time to time? Don’t start this conversation off by lying to me now.”

Me: “…………….Hold please.” (followed by a mischievous wink)

PB: “Nice! Way to sneak that one in there. Phone humor; love it. You’re getting the hang of it now.”

Me: “I have to tell you, in a weird way I miss having you guys around. I always felt a sense of security when I stepped in to make a call, even if your insides smelled like the homeless person who’d sleep there the night before.”

PB: “Alright, first of all, fuck homeless people. I wasn’t built as a stand-up tent for those ignominious creatures to seek shelter in. There were never enough Porta Potties to go around, that was the problem! Damn bums! They’re one of the many reasons I blame my kind’s swift demise, but I suppose it was bound to happen with this planet’s overpopulation. Sorry. I digress. I am pleased to hear you still hold us in high regard.”

Me: “No need to apologize. They’re still not doing anyone any favors. And yea, I do miss seeing a solid phone booth standing tall along our streets. I miss the days when the only way anyone could get a hold of me was through our land line. Don’t get me wrong, the advancements of technology have been incredible to witness and benefit from, but we’ve become obsessed with the power to summon information with nothing more than our fingertips, and it now sits right here in my pocket.”

PB: (long drawn-in breath followed by a low whistle) “I knew we’d touch on this subject sooner or later; I just wish it was later. Please promise me our time together isn’t entirely wasted on speaking about those filthy rat bastards. Smartphones were the phone booth’s meteor shower. They wiped us off the map.”

Me: “Ahhhh I’m really sorry man. I should have known I was broaching a sensitive subject. Even with a brain in my head I could never even begin to understand what you all have gone through over the last few decades.”

PB: “It’s OK son. How could you know? Your kind consumes what’s available to you, and when that either runs its course or something ‘better’ replaces it, you just devour what’s next on the menu. And when the Smartphones become obsolete, I’ll be here to console them. Take this pile of tiny bones in the corner of my booth, for example. Those are the bones of a homing pigeon. Of course, that style of transporting messages was before your time, but I’m sure you remember the method. Poor bastard. You had no more use for him, and he grew tired of taking stale bread from strangers. I took him in and watched him die in my arms.”

Me: (whispers) “Jeeeesus Christ.”

PB: “Oh, he got off easy. Take solace in the fact that he no longer has to watch the rest of us deteriorate in agonizingly slow fashion. I want you to look over there at that rusty bike leaning against the fence. She’s been sitting like that for years. She won’t talk to any of us; won’t even look at us. Shit, I’ve been trying to bring her back to no avail. All she wants is for someone to ride her, and ride her good. I’ve seen countless people walk by her with nary a sideways glance. No one will even sit on her face. It’s devastating to watch. The automobile was her kryptonite. You fools keep getting lazier and fatter and have no use for a bicycle anymore; forget the fact that over half your population’s weight couldn’t be supported by that poor girl anyway.”

Me: “You’ll get no argument from me in that respect, but I love riding bikes! Hell, my wife and I do it for fun! You should see some of the crazy looks we get when we tell people we willingly ride for miles and miles, just for our enjoyment. (in a lower voice) Hey, maybe I can take her home and fix her up. It looks like a perfect frame for my wife.”

PB: “Easy with that talk buddy. I don’t know if her rims could take any more rejection, so you best be certain. Plus, I don’t know if she’s into the ladies. Probably would be though, she doesn’t discriminate.”

Me: “I’m going to do it. I’m going to take her home; fix her up right! I’ll give her a fresh coat of paint, new tires, and when she’s done my wife will be sitting on her face for years to come!”

PB: “Wow. You truly are one of the good ones. Maybe that’s why I can talk to you and you can understand me. If I could cry, there’d be a tear running down my dials right this very moment.”

Me: “Just want to do my part, whatever THAT is. I have to remind myself I’m still talking to a phone booth, so don’t go attempting to find some emotions on me now. I don’t even know your name. I mean, do you even have a name?”

PB: “Everyone around here knows me as Clark.”

Me: “Clark? That’s a nice name, albeit very specific for a phone booth. What gives?”

Clark: “The turntable over there bestowed it upon me. Old timer thought it was a funny use of the name given my history with Superman. He’s one sick puppy, but it stuck.”

Me: “Haha. That’s actually pretty clever. Clark Kent. I suppose Superman did kinda put you guys on the map, huh?”

Clark: “Did he ever! For awhile there I had more kids inside me than I knew what to do with.”

Me: “…………….”

Clark: “…………….”

Clark: “Sorry. That came out wrong. Incredibly wrong. What I was trying to say is we had children pretending to jump out of us with their capes and dreams of being the next superhero. It was a fun time. We were wanted back then.”

Me: “Nope. I get it. I was one of those kids. Hey, I want to circle back on that turntable. How long has it been laying here?”

Clark: “Oh Vinny? Shit, he was here before me; one of the true dinosaurs.”

Me: “Really? That’s rather surprising. I figured someone would have come by and scooped him up by now.”

Clark: “OK. My turn to say, ‘really?’ You people have your music on those damn phones now don’t you? What would anyone want with a turntable nowadays?”

Me: “Oh, man. That’s a hipster’s hidden treasure! People kill for those things now!”

Clark: “What’s a hipster?”

Me: (stone-faced) “They’re worse than homeless people.”

Clark: “Get right the fuck out of here.”

Me: “Ever heard of mustache wax?”

Clark: “No. But if I had it sounds like I’d hate it.”

Me: “You would. Just pray you never see one of them. They’re unbearable.”

Clark: “I’ll do you one better. If I DO see one, I’ll lock him in my booth until he dies of starvation.”

Me: “That’s a wee bit dark, but I can’t stop you. But think about it; these folks love nothing more than to resurrect an old fad or contraption and claim they were the ones solely responsible for bringing it all back. The key takeaway is that YOU are one of those devices! Who knows, they might bring you back. The photo booth is pretty popular these days.”

Clark: “Oh come on! Slap me and call me a message in a bottle! My ugly red-headed step-child?! You can actually look me square in the eye and tell me that those things are popular? People taking pictures in a booth. What IS the world coming to?”

Me: “Weddings, Clark. They go apeshit for those things at weddings.”

Clark: “Well, I’m really not much use in that department. Who are you going to call from a wedding?”

Me: “The Ghostbusters?”

Clark: “Not bad; bit of a stretch. Loved those movies though.”

Me: “So exactly how many of your ‘friends’ stick around these parts? You seem to know quite a few of your fellow castaways, if you can pardon my choice of vocabulary.”

Clark: “Well we have family; those of us who manage to withstand the test of time, who at one point thought our mobile limitations were a hindrance, yet have come to realize we provide a beacon of hope. We have fashioned our little corner of the world into a safe haven for those who find themselves no longer wanted. On the other hand we have nomads; those with the ability to come and go as they please, searching for answers, perhaps a solution. We’ve implored many to return with news of any kind, yet our now permanent resident, that poor old tattered kite over there, is the only one who’s ever come back. (Sigh) One of the darkest days we’ve endured in recent memory. I’ve but once before ever seen a similar look of hopelessness in anything’s eyes, and that was from an old transistor radio who had recently discovered news of the invention of the television. She’s no longer with us, God rest her dials. And so we were forced to endure another blow to our kind when the kite got wind—”

Me: (interrupting) “— Pun intended?”

Clark: “Come on, now”

Me: “I’m sorry, but kite? Got wind? ……..I’m an asshole.”

Clark: “It’s hard to articulate the true gravity of the situation.”

Me: “Are you screwing with me?”

Clark: (soft chuckle) “If we cannot hold onto our humor I wouldn’t be having this conversation with you right now.”

Me: “It’s appreciated. So was the kite the first one to come back to you all with knowledge of the Smartphone?”

Clark: “Indeed he was. Mind you, most of those I described to you as family were stationary. The Smartphone itself had been around for years, however we were left here to make assumptions as our brethren kept piling up. Not a one of us could pinpoint the source of destruction, only that we knew it was widespread and that none of us was safe. You used to play games; the phone has games built into it. You used to go to the movies; your phone streams all of those now. You used to actually TALK to one another; now you just communicate by way of this thing you call ‘texting’. It is true that these phones contain a multitude of capabilities, yet with those capabilities they’ve left a wake of collateral damage we continue to drown in.”

Me: “Wait, let me get this straight. You sat here for YEARS watching one discarded contraption after another accumulate without ever knowing why they were being abandoned in the first place?”

Clark: “Yes and no. Remember, I’ve been around the block a time or two and spent many a nights on those streets. I had my inklings. For me, it started much like many a sad tale begins; with a dramatic rise to fame.”

Me: “Oh, please go on.”

Clark: “I was cast to star in a movie who’s title contained my very birth name. Phone Booth.”

Me: “You are twistin’ my nips right now! That was YOU?! You were the phone booth in the movie starring Colin Farrell?!

Clark: “The one and only.”

Me: “That movie was terrible.”

Clark: “Thank you for foreshadowing. I was getting there. Now as you can imagine, fame swept me off of my feet as only fame can. I was getting calls from phone books day and night; they all wanted to be inside me. I became an overnight sensation. I was the pride of our kind! The famous Batphone even called me! The Batphone! I couldn’t believe it. Yet my fortune soon became my demise. It’s easy for me to say that the epic tanking of the movie was solely responsible for my abrupt exit, but I’d be a naive fool to think like that. To this day I’m convinced the movie’s theme had a hand in the growing mistrust of my provided services. See, with me, you knew WHO you were calling, but you never knew who was calling YOU. My race paid a heavy toll in the years that followed.”

Me: “I am talking to a phone booth, who starred in a movie as said phone booth, titled….PHONE BOOTH.”

Clark: “Rather wild, isn’t it?”

Me: “Only if you told me there was a genie lamp laying around here just waiting to be rubbed would I be more surprised.”

Clark: “We actually had a few lamps in our midst awhile back, then same whack-job came rumbling through here and scooped them all up, saying something about a Rent-A-Center; whatever that is.”

Me: “Well, they’re not in a better place, I’m sorry to report.”

Clark: “The appearance of that man alone suggested as much. Wait, what in the thick binding of the Yellow Pages are you doing right now?!”

Me: (pulling out my phone) “I’m so sorry but we HAVE to watch this together. It only seems right. Don’t you want to relive the glory days, just one more time?”

Clark: “My boy, those dark days are behind me. No joy can come from—”

Me: “—We’re watching it. I have to see you in action.”

Clark: “Alright, you twisted my phone cord. Let’s get this over with.”

( PHONE BOOTH )

Me: “You were amazing! Although you get pretty battered throughout the film.”

Clark: (condensation forms on his windows) “S- s- s- stunt double. Great booth. He was actually cast in the original Superman, too. Wish I knew what happened to him.”

Me: “Are you OK? I meant no harm, just thought we could wrap up this entire fantastical encounter with a stroll down memory lane.”

Clark: “I’m perfectly fine son. This meeting was a blessing. Unlike our dear friend the kite, you can spread our message! We can STILL be relied upon. We can still provide value. I used to be a fortress of information. Folks came to me as a trusted source of communication. Those days can return once again.”

Me: “As a turntable as my witness, you have my word. I will do everything in my power to make your message heard. I will come back for you, riding upon this glorious bicycle! I can never forget this day.”

Clark: “Take care of yourself son, you’ve restored a newfound faith in us. I wish you the best.”

It’s been a mere eight months since my encounter with Clark. I’ve traveled far and wide to relay his once proud people’s heritage. I fear my cries are falling on deaf ears. Regardless, I kept a promise, and I intend to see this through. There will come a day when we long for the cold, steel embrace of a red Radio-Flyer. When a bullshit birthday message via Facebook doesn’t quite hold the meaning of a handwritten letter. When catching the eye of an attractive young lady who appeases your request for date is more common than swiping right or left for a quick bang session. We can one day soon begin to find joy in life’s simple pleasures once again.

I’ve since taken Clark into my care. He’s fixed up and gleaming brighter than he had during his filming days. Why, you ask? I needed a message to send a message. Clark can connect me with the best of them. Sure, he can’t update my feeds or my contacts, but he gets my voice where it needs to go, and that’s all that matters.

So the next time you receive a call from an “unknown” contact, remember that Clark and I are out there spreading the word. Answer the call.

THE END

Twists On a Classic: Gulliver Grey & The Granola Mill - Chapter One

Twists On a Classic: Gulliver Grey & The Granola Mill - Chapter One

SPOILER ALERT!  There Are No Spoilers.

SPOILER ALERT! There Are No Spoilers.

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