Nearly three years ago, we took a weekend winter wonderland adventure on the Alaska Railroad to the majestic Denali (also known as Mt. McKinley) in Alaska.
We ended up onboard with train conductor Harry Ross who has appeared on the Railroad Alaska television series. (Fun facts - they stop the train when there's a moose or bear close enough for people to take photos, or a clear view of Denali from the distance. They also stop the train to pick up passengers who are waiting on the side of the tracks).
On this glorious trip, we squeezed into a tiny plane (absolutely freezing) on a gorgeous clear and sunny day to fly over and witness the splendor the tallest peak in North America. On top of it all, the one time I was so fortunate to see the Northern Lights was on this visit.
Our cabin stay was in the tiny town of Talkeetna, which is said to be the town that inspired the fictitious town of Cicely in the 1990's TV show Northern Exposure. (Apologies if the theme song is now playing repetitiously in your head.)
This store is possibly my favorite I've ever visited. Anyway, outside you can see a payphone. (I wonder if that is an ice machine sitting next to it. I suppose even in the arctic tundra one will want ice in the summertime.)
While looking over picture with my husband, I had asked the question "if they have a payphone in Talkeetna, why don't we see more of them around other places?"
Since I've embarked on this breaking-up-with-my-smartphone journey, I've read lots of other people's articles about how they have a basic cell phone, or only a home phone! Some people just have a cell phone they leave in the car glove box (which is how many of us started out with a cell phone in the first place - for just-in-case).
One thing I've learned in my research is that more people than you'd think don't have a cell phone at all. That is quite the contrast with the disappearing payphones in the United States. I've heard "no one uses payphones anymore because they all have cell phones." This Atlantic article mentions they've been removed in part due to no longer turning a profit and for their use in illegal activities. However, after seeing several movies lately wherein the use of payphones stood out at me, I took great interest in this article at Motherboard, Payphones Still Make Millions of Dollars.
With today's smartphones, it seems people are actually talking to other people far less, and rather sending messages via shares and texts, etc. Sadly, this is also often the case when people are sitting together at the same table - not talking, but buried in their phones. Whereas the payphone is a direct and simple tool, like any regular phone, that connects two people to discuss or arrange something.
I guess so many phone booths have been taken away in the US because they were already losing money on them. Although I can't help but to wonder what is the cost to just leave an already-built, already-installed, existing payphone in place. Particularly in a remote location like the one used by Deb in Napoleon Dynamite. As mentioned in this article at WAMC/Northeast Public Radio, there are times when a hard-wired pay telephone is needed by people. I consider them more as pay-as-you need utility now. And we all know everyone's mobile phone has a dead spot somewhere or has no battery left - assuming everyone truly has a cell phone.
Here are some more payphone-related articles and stories:
- The Payphone Project
- The Escondido Grapevine "Where Have all the Payphones Gone?"
- The San Diego Union-Tribune "Pay phones: Is that still a thing?"
Thank you for reading! :)