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Hello, world; Recalling phone booths and quiet calls.

COLUMN: IN OUR OPINION

They were these smart little pockets of quietness.

In busy areas - sidewalks, parks, hotels, stations and stores - phone booths blocked out the noisy crisscross of bustle and hurry for a minute so a person could conduct a conversation over a pay phone.

How very civilized of our enclosure-seeking, call-placing predecessors.

The presumption was that anyone using a public phone had something valuable to say, worth the dimes and quarters they deposited, and worthy of some privacy behind a closed door. There was the quaint-seeming thought that the call, whether the matter was mundane or momentous, was no one's business but the dialer and the person dialed - and maybe momentarily the phone company's, whose operator could interrupt with a request for more coins. To any curious observers, a brief air of mystery might accompany a person as they hung up and stepped out of the booth, maybe tucking an address book into a pocket or purse, and then melting back into the moving crowd.

All that's all but gone now.

With the proliferation of the ever-ready cell phone, people no longer need to find a phone booth, a phone number, a dime or even a reason for their phone time. As we've all overheard countless times in cashier lines, on the street and other places we're stuck with each other, people are conveying inane messages most of the time, and putting them clamorously into strangers' ears without a second thought.

It turns out the phone booth wasn't just providing the caller with relative quiet. They were also a sound barrier for the other people there.

It makes sense that pay phones are rapidly disappearing. Technology has put the ability to contact and be contacted, nearly anywhere and any time, into our hands. That's progress, by and large.

It's regrettable, though, that phone booths are being boxed up and put in civility's attic.

The public needs their polite offer of peace and privacy, now more than ever.
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Title Annotation:EDITORIAL
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Aug 5, 2009
Words:329
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