Thank goodness pay phones have not been layed to rest

I was so concerned about charging my iPad so that I could read from my Kindle app for the duration of my six hour flight from Boston to San Francisco, that I forgot to charge my cell phone and somewhere along the way it died. All that searching for a connection can be exhausting, even for a cell phone.

It would not have been much of a problem except that I had made reservations with Marin Door to Door shuttle to take me to my Santa Rosa destination and I was supposed to call them before I collected my baggage so that they could dispatch a driver. My iPad can do a lot of amazing things, but making a phone call is not one of them. At least not with the few apps that I’ve downloaded so far.

It was almost midnight and I wanted to make sure that the last part of this long journey would happen fast, so I stopped at the first pay phone I could find. I dug out a quarter from the change purse attached to my wallet and reached to put it in the coin slot. That’s when I realized that it has been a very long time since I have used a pay phone. So long, in fact, that I was not aware that it costs fifty cents to make a call.

I dug out another quarter and proceeded to dial the shuttle’s number when I got a message announcing that this particular call would cost 75 cents and that I needed to insert more money. Luckily I had the requisite amount in dimes and a nickel and I added that to the machine. I’m not sure what went wrong from there, either I incorrectly dialed the phone number or I should not have dialed it again, but the line went dead. When I hung up the phone, I was not returned my 2 quarters, two dimes and one nickel. I was out of change and perhaps luck. It was the middle of the night! How was I going to find my ride?

Not willing to panic just yet, I contemplated stopping a stranger who was passing by and asking to use his or her cell phone for a fast call. I considered my reaction if a stranger in an airport at midnight stopped me with a similar request, but before I moved into desperate action, I noticed that the pay phone is also set up so that I could use a credit card to pay for my call. What a relief. I slid my American Express card in and out of the slot for a $.75 charge and contacted the shuttle company as instructed.

Apparently the night shift operates differently than the day people who take the reservations, because this guy asked me to call again after I had my baggage.

Thank goodness for that credit card slot and my trusty American Express card and the fact that the airport still has pay phones. It took more than a few calls to negotiate my ride. (I won’t mention how terrible the service is from Marin Door to Door–you can check out all the bad reviews on Yelp.)

Our next bill will reflect several $.75 charges. I don’t think the night shift guy ever quite figured out that I did not have the convenience of a cell phone to call back and forth as he figured out how to do his job with me as the guinea pig.

But between that slot, my card and the electrical outlet on the nearby wall where I was able to take advantage of the ridiculously long wait for the late night shuttle and charge my iPhone enough to operate in case of emergency during the 2 hour journey to Santa Rosa, I managed to negotiate my ride and blend a bit of old technology with the new.

It’s nice to know that with a pay phone, when the line goes dead, there is redemption. Another phone call is just a few quarters or credit card slides away. When a cell phone dies, resurrection is a much longer process.

I also made for darned sure that both my phone and iPad were fully charged before I left for the airport for my return fight from San Francisco to Honolulu. I even remembered to turn off the phone when I got on the plane so I would have no difficulty calling my ride as soon as the plane landed on Oahu to get me home ASAP. I also think I’ll buy one of those back up batteries for the next time I travel.

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Laurie Hanan
    Aug 08, 2012 @ 16:49:04

    Such things have happened to me – I could write a book, as they say. Luckily I grew up in the age of pay phones, so using one is not a foreign concept. And I did enough international traveling as a youth that I became very familiar with using my credit card to work the pay phones. Now that my kids travel alone, I keep thinking I need to take them to an airport and teach them how to use a pay phone. Neither of them has ever used one!

    I hope the rest of your trip went better.


  2. Martha Gershun
    Aug 25, 2012 @ 14:34:06

    YES – need to teach my kids how to use a pay phone – wow – never thought about it before. Loved the idea of how tiring it is to look for a connection…


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