There’s nothing sexy about a payphone.  Their bulky, sticky, dirty, and you never know if they’re going to operate correctly. You may not be old enough to remember payphones, but you could spot payphones on the side of the road or at the corner gas station, and my favorite was the phone booth. Not only for superman, but if you were gymnastically inclined, try squeezing two people in a phone booth, hopefully nobody has an unpleasant odor of the breath! (Are you picking up what I’m laying down?)
Today we have iPhones, apple phones, potato phones, carrot phones, I don’t know, we have all sorts of phones. Most of the time I can’t find my phone. (disappearing phones).  I walk from one room to the other, “where are you phone, you funny funny phone”?  Tossing the pillows off the sofa, knocking the flower arrangement off the end table, (a couple swear words), and still no phone. Ugh…
Then I remember I must’ve left it upstairs. So my journey begins up the flight of stairs. Running into my bathroom, (it’s not that spacious, I can see everything at a glance). It’s not there!!! Gezzzzz.
Now I’m sweating, because I can’t find the phone.  Since I am in the bathroom maybe I should shower. No I don’t want to do that I just did my hair. Okay what was I looking for, again? Why am I in the bathroom? Oh, the phone!
Maybe it’s under my blanket when I made my bed this morning? Are you kidding me, I have to unmake the bed so I can look for my phone?  Are you kidding me, it’s not there! Are you kidding me! Arghhhh! I want to jump in the bed and pulled the covers over my head. (but I can’t because I want to write this blog)
It must be downstairs. The journey begins again as I run down the stairs. (I’m not counting calories, but this could be good, right?)
Have I looked in the kitchen? It’s not in the pantry, it’s not in microwave, let’s hope it’s not in the garbage can.  I’m going to pretend it’s not in the garbage can.

It has to be in the living room. I wish I had a phone, so I could call my phone.

I remember when I didn’t lose the phone.  There was a time when a phone knew its place.  The phones in federal prison were exactly where you expected them. There was never a need to search the prison looking for the phone. A row of payphones hung on the wall with a wooden bench in front of them.
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These were special payphones, they didn’t accept coins.  I had to punch in a set of numbers that took me 37 days to memorize.  I felt somewhat inferior, I had to keep my numbers on a tiny piece of scratch paper because I couldn’t remember them. It wasn’t difficult to notice the amazing speed in which the younger women could punch their numbers into the phone… Phone-Punching Olympiads!
The phones were only open during specific times of the day and when women began forming the line, you knew the phones would be turned on soon. The anticipation of hearing my families voice on the other end, made waiting in line all the worthwhile.
There were times, I would run out of money or out of minutes, and would not be able to speak to my family for a few weeks, but sadly, there were many women who never left their bunks to stand in the phone line.  I felt grateful to be one of those standing in the line.
The funniest conversations, were when bilingual women were speaking Spanish. The conversation begins in the normal audible range, then a bit louder, increasingly louder to unbelievable louder… then fast, to faster, then exceedingly fast, then suddenly a recognizable word.  Shi___! They swear in English! LOL
One time my son said he couldn’t hear me, but he could hear everybody else. So I said, “Whose conversation are you listening to, the lady next to me screaming at her boyfriend or the young mother talking baby talk to her child”?
As unnerving as the payphone conversations had been, the payphone area was a place for women to communicate and observe one another.  Whether a women is in prison or not, you will hear her talking sweetly to her child, you will hear her self-doubt with her boyfriend or spouse, you will hear her congratulating her adult children for their accomplishments and you might join her to sing happy birthday to someone special.

At times some conversations did not go unnoticed.  There were times when women bit their lower lip or dropped their head into their hand or perhaps they would slide down the wall to the floor…those were the bad ones.   However, as soon as she hung up the phone, another woman would sit next to her, hold her, rock her and let her cry.

If ever there was a display of compassion to be recognized, between different ethnicities, races, religions and gender identifications, it was revealed at the payphones.
(maybe we need to sprinkle a few payphones around town)…
“With all that said I must humbly admit, my iPhone was in my back pocket this whole time. Now I can’t help but wonder who in the “britches” have I butt dialed”?
Living joyfully without the payphone,
Holly

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