Now that I think about it, maybe I should have called this blog "Blank Canvas" instead of "Pay Phone Vigilante." The Pay Phone thing is something I wrote a while ago that I didn't really know what to do with. I decided to give it a home here because, for one thing, I thought the title sounded cool, secondly because it's an example of stuff I write all the time, and third because I was intimidated by the blank space and I wanted to put something up here to get started. I've written some stuff on myspace, but I've never really blogged before. I have this feeling like I've been invited to sing anything I want on stage and I get up to the microphone, realize that my audience is an infinite crowd, and I open my mouth and let out a squeak. I will try to keep my squeaking to a minimum.
Mostly with this blog I just want to write about anything. With no editor, no deadline, no worries about rejection letters, or whether my style jives with a certain newspaper or magazine I can stretch out and scribble like a kid with a blank piece of paper.
Here's the essay:
One of my friends was all bugging me about getting a cell phone again. We were supposed to meet in the park and we walked around for a half an hour before we could find each other, a thing, she said, that could have been prevented if I’d had one of those schizophrenic phone-t.v.-computer-camera things on me.
The thing is, I prefer pay phones. I like feeling like I'm in an old movie, standing in the rain, no umbrella, fumbling with the change as I slide them into the coin slot, and taking a wet, streaked piece of paper with a barely legible number on it out of my pocket. I dial and she answers on the other line and I say something like, "Hey, you want to catch a movie?" And there’s no way she can say no, not to a grainy pay phone in the rain. See, on a pay phone there’s desperation involved. On a cell phone, anybody can call you at any time, if for no other reason than the fact that they’re bored. But the whole thing about using a pay phone is that they’re so hard to find, you have to hunt them down. You seriously have to want that call. You drive from one gas station to another looking for one. If you don't give up after the first couple of stations, this means that you really want to get in touch with someone. The whim has become a need, a hunt.
Finally, you find a banged up phone stand outside of a McDonald’s. There's a curse word scratched into the base of the phone and the mouthpiece smells like the after-shave of the guy who made a call before you. Well, maybe he made a call, you think, or maybe he just rubbed the receiver all over his chin. And you make the call and your friend answers, and you say, "Hey, it's me. You want to catch a movie?" She says, "Sure," and you meet at the movie house, and during the movie you sit without looking at each other, just staring at the screen. And it's one of those movies that your mind responds to like an eye to a Kaleidoscope, and both of you walk out of it questioning things that you thought you knew for sure before. And suddenly you want to be alone again. So you say you need to get home and you're glad that she came, and you walk off by yourself, no cell phone on you, no way for anyone to find you unless you want to be found. My friend and I managed to find each other that day. She was right, we could have saved a lot of time if I’d had a cell on me to begin with. But the vain part of me was smugly satisfied that she had to hunt me down. Because she really wanted my company. Some day soon there will probably be no pay phones. The government will issue cellulars, or something crazy like that. Until then, try to remain unattainable while you can. Let them hunt you.