The dark side of vintage life

Pay Phone Graveyard

Some time ago, I wondered what had become of all the public pay phones that used to dominate the landscape back in the day. It quickly became obvious to me that such a query possessed the kind of antiquated heft to which anyone born after the year 2000 could not relate.

I was able to come up with a location for these antique stragglers of a time before cell phones. There existed a pay phone graveyard along Queens Boulevard, in the shadows of the Manhattan skyline. The pictures were depressing as fuck; one pay phone piled on the other in rows of obsolescence. It was the same for every city, as I would come to learn. I surmised that city politics prevailed after the excavation of these vintage methods of communication. So for every lucky buyer who was able to procure one to use as a conversation piece in their basement, there were droves that were left to the elements. Progress wasn’t kind to the payphone.

Newspaper Boxes

Newspaper vending machines were gifted a slightly kinder fate. A little more than twenty years ago (The technological equivalent is 500 years), almost half of all newspaper sales came out of those clunky newspaper boxes. Less than twenty years later, sales had dwindled to less than twenty percent; mostly thanks to densely populated areas where the boxes still possessed an efficacy for on the go peeps. Add to that the fight many papers wage against the removal of these newspaper boxes in those urban centers, the clever re-purposing utilized by libraries and the robust secondary market for ‘decommissioned’ boxes on auction sites like eBay and the picture is slightly brighter for these vintage pieces.

The point of this post isn’t to provide a history lesson. Hells nah. It’s my way of belaboring the point I really wanted to make since I’ve got a slight case of writers block and rambling tends to help.

Here’s my real point: Don’t look now, but ATM machines are going away too.


Oh, they’re still plenty prevalent enough if you’re motivated to find ’em. But they’re dwindling in numbers nonetheless. Because cash isn’t worth our time, excepting for when we go to flea markets or yard sales where cigar boxes and basic math still happen. Outside of that, we use plastic . . for everything. And what’s most curious about this fact, is that we never mind the breaches. Don’t get me wrong, we care about our personal information being passed around like a porn princess in an orgy scene . . but we tend to look at it as the price we have to pay. We ain’t gonna let those mysterious third party arbiters who are conducting private inquisitions on our shit harsh our mellow. Especially when companies are so good at apologizing to us and swearing it will never happen again inside those kitschy thirty second commercial spots.

Maybe I shouldn’t take it so seriously. I mean, I get painfully meticulous in what I share, because I realize that what I share has consequences. And that sounds so batshit crazy, I know. But I simply ain’t down with a society that does pay phones like that. It makes me want to tuck myself away in a cabin deep inside a forest, disconnected from the madness; where the only transactions I abide by come in the form of the four essential elements of Western culture. That . . is some Zen shit . . sans the big brother tentacles.

Maybe I’ll bring one of those payphones along, in case of emergency.

103 thoughts on “The dark side of vintage life

  1. ATM’s aren’t just vanishing, sometimes the banks are too. My branch bank is selling it’s prime neighborhood location to (no doubt) some out of town real estate developer who will build some 5 story overpriced multi-family housing box that resembles a lego house and will charge a fortune to live there. Just the one next door to it that just opened up. Development is killing our neighborhood. And when was the last time you saw one of those ma-pop ‘filling stations’ with two pumps? Egad…I’m giving away my age, aren’t I? Happy weekend and happy Father’s Day.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I give away my age every day, so don’t be sweating it.
      And yes you’re right! Banks too. Well . . that’s because it’s going to be one company some day . . for everything.
      And if that sounds paranoid, fit me with a tin foil hat and lemme go! Because it’s still early on in the technology age. The best and worst is still out there to be had. Let’s hope for more of the former . . .
      Muchas gracias for the wishes!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I love when you have supposed writer’s block – you still manage to make us think…

    Ironically, there is a payphone across the street from my house at the local dépanneur – or dep, as we call them – convenience store to everyone outside of Quebec. Mick, being ever the social guy, chatted up all our neighbours, one of them being the doyen of our street and ‘hood, and learned that the original owner of our house used to use the payphone all the time… hmmm… methinks there “may” have been some seedy bidness going on…

    As for the newspaper boxes, living in suburbia, I rarely, if ever saw them. And, now that you mention it, ATMs are gonna be a thing of the past, aren’t they? ‘Course our “dep” has one 😉

    I’m thinking that cabin in the woods sounds rather divine. As long as I can go and get my fix of people once in a blue moon…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Everyone’s giving their personal info to everybody like it’s not a big deal at all, like a handsake or something. I get really really anxious, but I thought maybe that’s because there’s something wrong with me. Reading your post makes me feel normal. And makes me laugh, of course! So… to the Forest, we gooo!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mid,

      It’s funny how we went from being so ‘vigilant’ after breaches such as the Target incident several years back to “No, I don’t need a receipt” . . . just like that.
      From paranoid to passe. I mean, it’s ONLY our personal information, after all. lol.
      You are so not alone. Heck, I look at how all these companies are merging (into one big company) and how personal information is everywhere. You can really see where this is all going . . I mean, really.

      To the forest!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Even though I read online, there’s still something about holding a newspaper that I like. Then again, that’s assuming the quality of the material is still worth it. For instance, overall, I also see a decline in the quality in the stories – however – some still hold their head of pride high – even though it may only be 3-4 days a week instead of 7.

    I enjoyed this post – so cheers to writer’s block if this is what it creates. I recently saw this related report – here’s the clip – also with one of my favorite news ladies introducing it.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I’ve sort of resigned myself to the notion that privacy is dead (if it was ever really more than a figment of my imagination to begin with). I still toy with the notion that someday I’ll go completely off-grid.
    As for the phones and news boxes (well, probably not the boxes), perhaps they’ll experience the resurgence from nostalgia like pinball machines, jukeboxes and turntables.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I go off the grid as much as I can. But I’ve not yet gone full throttle on it . . . not yet. It’s a plan though, a legit one.
      Because there is no such thing as privacy when a kid can sit in his basement in Bismarck, North Dakota and re-configure anybody’s life into something that works for him. Because then . . what are these companies able to do?
      I don’t ask too many questions like that, for obvious reason, lol.

      Thank you for the chime!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Excellent observations on our passing fancies, Mark. I still remember driving around looking for a payphone to make an important phone call. I loved standing in the hot sun balancing a pad to take notes from some big head in his AC’d office. Those were the days. Nice post.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I couldnt agree more about the cabin in the woods. It just is too much to the other extreme though. I dont like the idea of a cash less society. I hate the idea of things getting more and more electronic and obscure. I really think its a strange kind of world now and sometimes I just long to travel back in time to simplier days. Its quite a surreal image you posted have you ever seen one about the grave site of abandoned shopping trollies? Things are changing and for those of us born pre 70s and 80s I dont believe it is often in a good way.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Deb,

      Having read me enough, you know I deal in the extremes. I try to keep things even in ‘me brain because it’s a daily devotional I make to keeping things upright rather than crashing down.
      As a result, my peripheral views tend to run the gamut. People misinterpret friendly with sociable. I am friendly. Sociable? I struggle like hell with it.
      Thing is, I don’t trust where technology is taking us. At all.
      I haven’t seen the trollies, but I’ll look it up. Gracias!
      I was born fifty one years ago, and the sea change has been enormous. And to think, we are still on the cusp of what is to come.
      We should be thrilled, and frightened. Both.

      Liked by 1 person

      • It great to be able to place you in context Marc. I am 56 as you may know. I think our generation has witnessed a time of incredible change but I am with you as far as mistrust of technology. If we can use it and not be used by it that is fine but it can remove us so far from earthly reality and natural cycles. I was just listening to a programme on how airline travel has changed in the last 40 years. It used to take 11 days to get to the UK from Australia now we arrive in 24 or so but there is jet lag things are speeding up but in ways I believe are beyond the capacity of an organic body to cope thus the prevalence of anxiety and other ‘disorders’. And yes, I think we ARE both. Maybe if I was younger Id feel differenlty about it all.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Yes, you are able to glean the context and I am so grateful for it. As such, you understand what I am saying when I tell you that writing about certain things . . as per my mental state, is WAY easier said than done. I admire your ability to do so, and you do it so very well.
          And yes, we are running before walking as per all this amazing progress. We don’t stop to ask if it’s good for us before we’re already doing it. And that . . that just doesn’t make much sense to me.
          I have great faith in the younger generation. They’re the chance we have, as humans. Because the power and reach of technology is going to be harnessed by peeps who do not have our best interests in mind. It’s happening already. I can’t imagine what’s to come.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Its quiet worrying really. I also do admire the ethos of a lot of younger people. I just think they need to make adjustments to a system or technology which at times gets out of step with more organic concerns. But we ARE going to see a lot more harm done. That said mother nature will have its own rebellion in th end.

            Liked by 1 person

          • It is. And I too admire the ethos, because it prevails on the younger self I really don’t think I ever was, and in so doing, it gives me hope I never possessed, lol.
            The system is already getting away from us, I feel. We’re merging in the wrong direction. Companies clotting, businessmen taking world leader roles . . it’s already reading like some dystopian tale.
            And yes! Mother Nature is taking it all back some day. She sure is.

            Liked by 1 person

  8. Duuuuuuuuude that payphone graveyard was no joke! Definitely a bummer. I remember constantly using them when I was about to break curfew and be like ‘does anyone have a quarter?!’ Ha. Man. That one right there was a trip. Plus I’m cracking up because I think I’m the only one of my friends that constantly has to stop by the bank to get cash. I’m still old school like that 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I remember doing the same thing, LOL! There were a few times when I didn’t just break curfew, I totaled it.
      You ARE old school! It’s refreshing actually . . .


    • Karen,

      I didn’t say the cabin wouldn’t have internet, lol. I’d find a way, just in case I needed to send a goodbye email in the event of a home invasion by grizzlies.
      But I would also be quite disciplined as to using technology, because really . . I can’t be one with nature if I’m plugged in all the time.
      I had/have a writers something. I can feel the difference. My tempo and pace gets thrown off.
      Thank you and welcome back!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hah. Wrong of me to assume. You’d have to write long hand and use a postage stamp and send it to someone you’d hope would publish it. Remember when? I’m sure there’s a mailbox graveyard somewhere, too. You’ll work through whatever is going on. I’m sure if that.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Yes, I remember it well!
          God, I’d have to learn how to write longhand all over again! I best practice that before I make any plans on cabin life.
          It’s not writers block. It’s more like writers meh. But I’ll figure it out.

          Liked by 1 person

  9. I saw vintage and you know where my mind dipped into. AH! Writers blog, how good to know you too, suffer from it! Pay phones tho, it’s another piece of time gone by worth giving a nod to and remembering their place in history. And per usual, thanks for the tongue n cheek giggles.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I can totally relate to someone who “ain’t down with a society that does pay phones like that.” Sadly reflective of our country’s disposable mindset, yet I enjoyed the humor and wisdom in this post. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Cate,

      Welcome to the party! And yes, it is a disposable society in more ways than the one. Technology is some kinda game changer. We want more and more of less and less, it seems.
      Thank you for the chime!


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