This phone has its share of problems. I think of them often as my early morning weekday and Sunday evening body walks by this corner. On a not-so nuanced angle where a pizza shop meets a cigar emporium, I consider the hang-ups I have and unanswered calls for possible solutions to challenges lingering about this brain of mine. Most have connected to the same fate as this coin eating relic: a dead dial tone of silence.
This is ok. My receiver is busted, too, and it takes more than five or ten cents to make me work these days. To coin a phrase, those little dimes and quarters are made of metal because … change is hard. It really is. Most likely explains why this Allegheny street artifact is still bolted to the wall after years of neglect and abuse. Our borough doesn’t move quickly on matters such as this. I don’t blame them. After all, had this worn and whacked push-button recluse been systematically pile-heaped, I’d have no friend to write about today.
It is a friend. Yes, a beaten down, torn up, knocked around friend. One I pass a lot while headed to see my human friends who have their share of problems. A Sunday night dad in a pizza shop, or a group of air-breathers sitting patiently inside The Capitol Hotel. All of them burdened with their own basket of problems. Oh, and I have mine as well. All of us do, right?
We don’t want change, but it happens. Just like my broken friend, change is inevitable. Small bits forced into the slots demanding calls we didn’t want to make. We hope upon hope what we are urged into doing IS the right move – the right call for that moment in time. Is it worth the heightened pulse in our chest and sweat in our brow? Will there be an answer at the other end of the experience? Are the words we speak being received … across a possible, impossible emotional divide? Is the connection even there, anymore?
I think it is. At least for 3,000 of us Americans. According to Google, there are 100,000 operational phone booths in the USA with 1/5 of those in NYC. That means roughly 3,000 folks can pick up a street receiver and number poke a friend. The odds are pretty good no creature under, say, 35 will be doing such dinosaur digit-driving due to their lack of experience in the matter, but those of us who frantically dug into our pockets for dimes and quarters can certainly relate. The connection is there. It may be lint, gum wrappers, or twist ties, but it’s there …
Even though this one friend is broken beyond repair, all is not lost. Connections are never lost forever. Temporarily down, perhaps … but not gone. Change, however hard as it may be, is still in the belly of the beast … just like it is if someone mistakenly slips a few coins into this busted machine. Adjustments and evolutions of self take place over time. Time is what we have until it is no more. Time has been graciously given to my friend – patiently feeling its tone year after year .. and I’m glad the borough decided to give it extended existence.
I’ll pass it again this morning and again Sunday. Nothing will change. Today as has been, the receiver sits half-broken, number buttons have been without finger prints for years, and the “o” remains partially covered with a wonky, pinkish “ok” sign. Those are the only guarantees, I suspect. Everything else swirling about in my world – and the world of my friends and family – will be different. Transitions in small ways will occur and calls to make big changes must be answered. This is life. This is all of us every day.
We have our share of problems. I don’t think I’d have it any other way. Challenges make all of us unique. Isolated unto our own individualism, yet together in our ability to help one another through. Friends through and through.
This phone is my friend. It may be broken, but so are my friends … and so am I. Once we realize nothing is in perfect working order and change is hard, life becomes easier.
On an modest corner where many have passed, I think about my life. Yes, only for a minute or two. Nevertheless, these are the moments I can ask the universe, “Hello? Anyone there?”, and feel someone is actually listening…
… and to know a few steps later there will be … inside a very familiar, comfortable hotel cafe or pizza shop. That’s what friends are for.