Monday, May 15, 2006

Pay phones

This is completely unsurprising, but it still manages to nauseate (like you feel the morning after a dinner of Indian buffet and 3/4 of a bottle of gin: yeah, you knew you were gonna feel bad, but man, this feels bad): the US government is reportedly monitoring the phone records of political reporters, basically to go after political enemies in the context of "leak investigations."

So let's build more pay phones. I only acquired a cell phone in 2004, so I developed a love affair with pay phones. I learned to discriminate among various sub-types & memorized their location in every city. Drug dealers hated me; I was taking up valuable communications infrastructure. The guy selling crack would tiptoe up to me, shrug apologetically, and point to his watch. In return, I would scrunch up my face in that "really really sorry just a second" grimace, roll my eyes, & flap my hand as if to say "wow, she just won't stop talking." The dealer would smile in commiseration, pat me on the back, and mouth "take your time!" Then he'd shoot me in the leg. I miss those guys.

Once, I was walking near the Washington Monument late in the evening, and a nearby pay phone rang. I picked it up, and it was a woman asking me where I was. I told her. She sighed sadly, said, "I knew that sonuvabitch was lying," and told me about the affair her husband was having. That's why payphones are great. Moments like that, when you can intrude on someone else's misery.