Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Phantom Phone Booths

(Photo courtesy & © Thomas Olson)

The Martian by Vivian

On his last night on Earth, Thomas Olson snaps an image of the twin phone booths in the parking lot of a local rest stop. Tom insists on a Polaroid Instant, circa 1987, which he has owned now for over three decades. The Polaroid Instant has always produced low-quality photos, but Tom cannot imagine taking his final images of life on Earth with anything else.

Fiscal policy and logistical limitations have defined the stark parameters of Tom’s mission: One man. One way. The remainder of his natural life on Mars. Even so, only the President’s insistence that America beat China to Mars has saved Tom’s mission from cancellation.

Last September, a fortuitous Bird Flu outbreak in China had allowed the Americans to inch again. But then, China had always planned on sending six men, a dog, and a donkey. Round-trip.

Tom pinches the photo of the phone booths between his thumb and pointer finger and shakes it vigorously, a motion which, given Tom’s wiry frame, evokes the image of a well-worn yet sturdy fencepost in an earthquake. Once the photo has developed and set, Tom adds the image to his stack. These, he will tuck into a corner of his ship. They will sustain him, he imagines, on the loneliest of Martian nights.


Prestory by Lyle

Stories of suicides whose families dispose of the evidence before the police arrive because they feel ashamed. I can’t imagine the lack of empathy. I would feel only sadness. Such sadness. Sadness in the taut rope or metallic gun smoke still hanging in the room like a shroud.

And one night the darkness clamored around me: suddenly something outside the light jumped, buzzed. Or was it inside the light? Or the light itself? Difficult to say despite the dichotomous metaphors — inside/outside, light/dark. But which was which? the corona and penumbra mixed to create a wide grayness. It percolated light as well as darkness. This percolation jumped,
popped —
a fly hitting a zapper at dusk.

And then the phone rang.


Intercessed by Forrest

I use the left one for emergencies.

I use the right one to watch.


Zipatone by Bill

One’s a gate of ivory, the other horn. Both are ready to party. Say what you want into the first and you will hear nothing but lies, and truths like a crate of clementines whose tops are brilliant while the undersides are rotten, half hearted veracities and cunning trickery spread over the lines like little sparks of tragedy. Best just to dial up the radio station and request something to dance to, swing your hips in place and roll your pelvis enclosed in glass and metal. Half a musical truth is something you can hold in your hand easy enough and drop when you want it to break, equal parts brightly colored dia de los muerte shadowbox and unicorn figurine with a broken horn.

Which brings us around to the other. Easily a three on the Kinsey Scale, the Hierophant become the Lovers and the warp in and out of the world a fluid motion, free of friction so that once you step inside it becomes as if you had been cloaked in void softer than the coziest sweater, and there are flashes of lightning at the edges of your eyeballs you would never hear. Likely it is best to say nothing and let time speak for itself, and certainly say nothing false. Bring a band sticker to paste down on the little shelf, something you really like since everything you hear in the receiver will have some song in the background, informing what is said.


1992 By Beth

Back then she was always looking for a pay phone. It was the way her family played the game. It wasn’t okay to come in five minutes late. It wasn’t okay to change her mind and come back in the middle of the night, or to tell them she was staying at her boyfriend’s place. The arrangement was that she would call at 10:45. She would tell them which female friend with good parents she was staying with. They never called back to check. Once it was established that she wasn’t coming home, they stopped watching for the flash of headlights across the bedroom wall. They closed their mystery novels. They never knew she was calling from outside of a general store, the phone receiver cold against her hand and face.

After the phone call, her obligation, she was free to drive the back roads slowly, looking out for deer, foxes, raccoons, hot guys’ trucks. She was free to drive all the way to Bar Harbor, sit on the rocky beach and drink a wine cooler, listen to the waves roll in. Free to cruise the strip mall parking lot and the McDonald’s drive-thru, just to see who was out tonight. Free to slip under the quilted covers in the apartment where her boyfriend lived, smell the detergent on the clothes his mother didn’t wash anymore, forget that she had parents who loved her.


Before You Were Everywhere by Alan

We used to communicate in the off-hours. Shake off the dresses of the afternoon and evening and slip into a certain kind of midnight rhythm. Only the hours weren’t really hours but phases of our lives. You on one side of a tectonic plate and me on another. The balance was a kindling, was based purely on love. And to communicate was to love deeper, to write longer, to make attempts, to reconcile time.

There’s something about distance that brings us closer together. There’s something about convenience that tears us apart. I remember when I used to use pay phones. I remember the cold receiver on my shoulder, the arcane sustained moan, and what it meant to press the lip with my finger, and start over. These things I remember. When we were closer than strangers but miles apart. Before you were everywhere and I didn’t have to find you, you were nowhere and I loved you.


Scientific Inquiry Into the Extinction of the Telephone Booth by Johanna

Over the course of the last ten years, the once ubiquitous telephone booth has slowly disappeared from urban and small town street corners. The retarded withdrawal of booths from civilization has mostly gone unnoticed and unmeasured. The purpose of this study is to determine the main factors that lead to their extinction.

After extensive national and international travel in search of a working phone booth, only two were found. One, in Kerala, India and one in Bisbee, Arizona where it was painted with a mural to look like an angry robot.

While it is well-known that telephone booths became unnecessary in the early part of the century with the commonplace of cellular phone devices, they were still seen as a way for the homeless or people who forgot to charge their batteries to call home in an emergency. When the populace discovered endless minutes, most people on the street willingly lent the use of their personal phones if asked politely. Once phone companies realized this, they stopped service to all booths.

The actual disappearance of telephone booths began when citizens took it upon themselves to up-cycle. In urban areas, hipsters appropriated them for use as chicken coops and solar ovens. Artists recovered them for sculptures, installation pieces and stage props. More commonly, in rural areas they were used for bird houses and pit toilets. On occasion, multiple clowns could be found squeezing inside of one.

Future experiments should investigate how much a telephone booth will be priced for on Antiques Roadshow, in the case of a retro resurgence.