Payphones are still part of the street flora in New York City although I never see anyone using them–at least not to make phone calls. They get more use these days as public bulletin boards, attracting flyers, graffiti, and stickers (and stickers with graffiti), like the one below.
The notion of “payphone” will one day pass into history, and with it the memory of a way of life when people weren’t connected to the world and everyone they knew via a touch screen in their pockets.
These days I hate to carry change, and try to avoid it by always using a credit card, but in the 1980s and 1990s, pay phones made carrying coins a necessity. Once when I needed to make a call and didn’t have the 20 cents, I asked a passing couple if they could give me change for a dollar. Seeing that I needed to make a call, they handed me a quarter and said, “Keep it.” I was amazed and tried to press the dollar on them, but they refused it with a laugh.
Twenty cents may seem insignificant but the act of giving wasn’t. I thanked them profusely, but I’ve realized since that it wasn’t just a quarter they gave me. They also gave me a conviction that people have the capacity to be kind and generous, and you might never know in advance when or how someone will come to your aid. The fact that I remember that brief interaction from 25 years ago speaks to the lasting impression it made.