The Astonishing Sight of a Phone Bank!

Jim Machi
VP of Marketing, Sangoma

Last week, I was in the Chicago airport. And amazingly enough, I was delayed. Just a shock really to be delayed at ORD on a beautiful sunny day for no reason. Well, I think I did see a cloud in the sky. Anyway, I was delayed, so I decided to make the best of it and go get some steps in.

phone bank
Phone Bank in the Delta wing.

I ended up going down the Delta wing, where I never go because I’m a United guy. And lo and behold, I came upon a bank of pay phones. My second shock of the day!

emergency phone
Emergency phone in the United wing.

Now, I’ve seen regular phones at airports before and in fact have written about that. They’re there for emergencies. In fact, I also took this picture outside of my United gate where you can see one of those.

But a bank of pay phones like the old days was astonishing to me. I looked around and every single person was looking down at their cell phone. Oblivious to the bank of pay phones right there. They had better things to do. Oblivious to the unique activity these phone banks used to generate– like people waiting in line to call or people doing dial-up email and hogging the bank, causing huge frustration. So I’m thinking about the old glory days when my knees didn’t hit the seat in front of me and going “What are these things doing here?” Maybe they’re filming a movie about the year 1999 or something?

So I decided to do a bit of research on this topic. According to this article in March of 2018, there were 100,000 pay phones left in America at that time. So it seems there are still pay phones in America. Some are in hospitals. Some are hanging around wherever, just in case, waiting for a natural disaster, to be used (let’s hope they never get used). Some are where mobile coverage still doesn’t exist.

So, they are around, but they will likely continue to disappear. There is a cost to maintain these after all, and if the cost to maintain them is not met by the coins dropping in or by advertising revenue placed on them, then they’ll continue to disappear. It’s inevitable.

Oh, I could never find out in my short online search why ORD has some phone banks, but I found a couple of other blogspeople wrote on this subject who noticed the same thing as me there. And I guess they are in the United gate areas too, but I must have not noticed the various times I’ve been through there. I too was just focused on moving along…or on my cell phone.

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