I never noticed this pay phone before, it looks sleek and new. It looks like a pay phone booth in the Jetsons or some other imagined future that was imagined before the advent of the current mobile communication world in which snow now falls.
14th & 5th, I’m here just about every week yet today during the beginning stages of a blizzard. This never struck my eye but that doesn’t mean it is or is not new and the telephone insignia and classic ma-bell logo are likely not retro details but signs this is a refurbished booth. Booth? Do you see any newspaper reporters changing into blue and red underwear? This be a phone Kiosk, baby. That’s what we are calling them now that everyone has a cellphone and nobody has to worry if they have a dime to drop when a personal emergency arises other than a thickening snow storm.
But the phone call is secondary, it’s the stupid ad on the side of the booth-like remnants of the kiosk where the real money is.
Titan. Why the hell is this kiosk promoting the largest moon in our solar system? It has nothing to do with the stupid ad on the side – promoting that worthwhile social activity – online gambling, now legal in New Jersey. And how do they do it? By highlighting the fact you do not have to go to Atlantic City – in “Jersey” – you know, because it’s just as much fun to sit in your cramped apartment as it is to go to a casino – and promotes this idea by using the term “nuts “ – you know, because refines to testicles are just so hilarious that they should be encouraged in any public space. Way to stay classy, New York City!
I digress. Turns out this Titan is not the home-world of Saturn Girl at all, but a company and a few years ago the Isle of Manhatto during the reign of the oligarch in chief, Bloomberg, awarded the pay phone franchise in the Big Apple, outbidding Verizon, who is now focused on ways to increase your phone, cable and internet bills.
Some news gleaned by googling: A couple of years ago Titan acquired “1,900 payphones at 1,300 phone kiosk locations in New York City from Verizon. This latest transaction will triple the Company’s inventory of New York Phone Kiosk media to over 5,000 advertising faces. This purchase follows a prior acquisition of 652 payphones at 462 Phone Kiosks locations from Verizon in 2009 and will complete the sale of Verizon’s entire New York City Phone Kiosk advertising inventory to Titan. With this acquisition, Titan will own the largest inventory of advertising Phone Kiosks in the five boroughs.”
“The phone kiosks generate $62 million in advertising revenue annually -- and last year the city got $13.7 million of the take, triple what it pulled in from calls.”
Apparently the contract is good through October 2014. Titan is already promoting another innovation, digital touch screens inside refurbished booths, oh shoot, I mean Kiosk.
The exteriors of course can still display ads that use retro Jersey jokes to and coarse humor that prey on gambling addicts by negatively impacting the tourist industry of a neighboring state, but the interior will be a touch screen that will automatically call 311 or hail a cab, you know, the very reasons why you bought that Big Apple App for your iPhone.
I found all that out though later, a few days later, when I decided to write up this latest installment of the Dislocations Pay Phone series.
I was bravely trudging through falling snow when I noticed the pay phone and thought about those calls of yore… hoping I get back to the suburbs early enough to pick up the kids or will I have to hear it from the wife. They have it so secure and happy with the lawn and the cable TV that I pay for and that driveway I pay fore that I will have to shovel before morning. I envy the freedom of my secretary with the rose tattoo on her wrist, her willingness to stay late because she only has to take a subway home to Williamsburg, where she’ll heat up soup her mother made, and the way she asked me if I have ever been to Williamsburg, her eyes shining hazel, those ruby red lips always moist and how her body reminds me of the body my wife used to have but instead of calling her I call the wife and tell her I’m heading to Hoboken right now and exaggerate how bad the snow is in the city and the way she tells me to be careful makes me forget about the secretary for a while at least.
So, the day dream swiftly passed and I noticed through the sheets of snow a pit and construction over that pit and remembered a story last week of a water main breaking and it knocked out electricity and water and even land phone service for like a ten block radius and Con-Ed had to make this pit to repair the damage and the repairs are still going on. The utility services were soon restored, but fixing that subterranean infrastructure takes more time. The construction workers out in the snow, doing their jobs, delaying the inevitable collapse of our decaying infrastructure. By maintaining what makes possible the quality of life for everyone within the vicinity of 14th and 5th these workers have homes to go to with food on their tables.
14th & 5th pay phone, harkens back and ahead. The advertising space is more valuable than the function. Why let pedestrians going about their lives when you can however sublimely sell them something they don’t need – stay in your apartment and give your money to a casino without the free drinks, exciting atmosphere or campy lounge acts – what this city of commerce needs are more messages of commerce. Phone booths, oh, I mean, kiosks are mini-billboards and in case of emergency, you can also make a call. Snow fall thickens, schools and business were closing early. Everyone here was busy getting somewhere else as quickly as they could, except for the blue collar workers who endured the inclement severity to repair what was in the pit that makes civilization possible.
Who notices Titan now but I, now you.