Monday, July 11, 2011

My Odd Obssession with Pay-Phones



For some reason I love pay-phones. They have a certain character about them that is mysterious and alluring. In Film Noir, the plot practically revolves around the pay-phone; Detectives use it to call back to headquarters, criminals use it to make threats or arrange murders, and the police knock suspects unconscious with the receiver when they can't find a blackjack. People are always being told to meet in the drugstore and wait for a call from the payphone. I seem to vaguely remember one movie where the "dame" murdered her husband by strangling him with a pay phone... "Murder Calls Collect at Midnight" i think it was called.

But I digress...

I want my own payphone. If I had money to just throw away on things I would have probably purchased one already from eBay.  If I had one I would buy a dedicated land line specifically for my payphone. Taking the number, I would dust off my copy of photoshop, and whip up some simple business cards.

They would look something like this:
I would then proceed to hand these cards out to interesting people I meet, speakers at conferences, heads of state, famous bloggers, really funny people, passers by, etc.  Then I would sit at home and whenever the payphone rings I wouldn't mind picking it up because there would always be someone interesting on the other end. This would go on for some time until I accidentally train my Pavlovian response to crave stimulating conversation whenever I hear a phone ring. Also, my payphone has a red receiver.


At any rate, the point I am trying to make is this: Whenever I see a payphone I stop and write down the number. Then I call said number and if it rings loudly more than once, I save the number in my phone. (Some payphones will ring out loud once and then don't keep ringing, no one cares about those.)

Here are some of the numbers I have for the local Lincoln area:

(402)-466-9929 Gildersleeve Lounge - Nebraska Wesleyan University Music Building
Call when school is in session, right before eight or nine in the morning and say "Music Theory Is Cancelled Today", they love that.

(402)-479-9791 The Zoo Bar - Nebraska's Oldest Live Blues Bar. Their receiver has googly eyes on it. 
Call and let it ring. It may ring upwards of 50 times. If its the afternoon the bartender will slowly be driven mad until they finally answer. Be sure to say something nice. 

(402)-479-9519 The Nebraska State Capital Building.
Half the fun of these phones is that they are still part of dimly lit wooden booths situated close to the unicameral chambers. These are left over from the days when the governor would announce a huge event or make a historical pardon and the reporters would scramble to their respective booths to call the story in to their editors. You can practically taste the cigarettes and feel the fedora on your head when you're inside one of them. Call and say anything befitting of a film Noir movie, but be for-warned, it is a government building. I'm not responsible if the FBI shows up at your door. 

"Listen, tell Bugsy Malone he can go pick up the package up himself."

"The canary howls at midnight."

"Remember pier 5, end of the marina, third boat. And bring 10,000 francs in cash. Remember IN CASH." That last line is a quote from Casablanca. Actually, the more quotes from Casablanca you call with, the happier I'll be.

(402)-479-9550 The Sheldon Art Gallery 
This is down by the bathrooms if my memory serves. Call and when someone answers say this in a German accent: "Zees piece titled "1980's retro payphone", was donated from zee permanent collection of Dietrich Von Reitensbauch for the purpose of exhibition. Not only vas it crafted from one solid piece of wood, but all of the paint was handmade. This payphone gained notoriety in 1993 when it was stolen from the archives and sold at illegal auction. Luckily, in 2003, the piece was recovered and restored to its original display location." Wait five seconds, repeat until they hang up.

(402)-479-9892 The Lincoln Train Station
In the rear foyer of the Lincoln train Station. This is almost an ideal place to lead someone on a scavenger hunt. You could even tape a clue under the booth and no one would notice.

(402)-435-9890 The Coffee House
One of Lincoln's staple coffee houses. Call there and ask the person who picks up if there is a guy sitting at a table alone with a mac book. They will say yes. Then tell them that this phone call his for him. They will go get him, he will come to the phone. Play Rick Astley's "Never Gonna Give You Up" into the receiver. Laugh hysterically. Repeat.

I wish you luck on your phone calling endeavors.

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