Pay phone nostalgia

In a funny bit of serendipity, I was talking with somebody the other day about things that make you feel old, and this person told me his young son saw a pay phone in a movie and asked, “What’s that?”

Then I go to a friend’s Facebook page, and there was a picture of a bank of pay phones with the same question. Responses from people included, “even drug dealers avoid them lately,” “these things were sent by the aliens,” and “cell phones from the future.”


And of course, they weren’t the full booth pay phones, which you may remember was the reason Superman had to change in a revolving door in the ’78 movie.

But indeed, these days it’s tough to find pay phones if you need one, and they got a bit expensive too. (I’ve used up a lot of change in the past just calling to check my voicemail an area code away from home.)

Maybe it’s out of nostalgia, but I also realized you can buy phone booths on eBay, and I’ve found prices as low as $500, all the way up to $1,800.

Of course, if you just want the pay phone itself for your wall, it’s considerably less (about $300 on one EBay listing.) And according to Google, there’s even DVD storage cabinets that look like phone booths you can buy from JC Penney for $200.

You also can’t help but wonder how the lack of pay phones has impacted crime, or if the police monitor whatever phones are left. I always loved the scene in GoodFellas that showed how Paul Sorvino had to get his calls second hand, and a young Henry Hill had to run to his house in the rain from a phone booth to tell him something in person so no one can trace it.

There was also that episode of The Sopranos they found and killed Phil Leotardo (Frank Vincent) because he was still using pay phones, and they found the one local gas station that still had one. Until the technology comes along where cell phones can be totally untraceable, if you’re up to no good, you may have to go out of your way to communicate these days.