Paul's Internet Landfill/ 2019/ Payphone Trickery in 2019

Payphone Trickery in 2019

At the cost of my employability, this summer I tried to spend a lot of time outside -- particularly taking long rides on my bike. Furthermore I sometimes arranged to meet with people on these trips. Because I do not have a (working?) cellphone, coordinating these meetings was tough.

To my surprise, I learned that it is still plausible to use payphones in 2019, at least some of the time. The most difficult part is finding a payphone. Newer developments do not install them at all, and older ones get rid of their payphones as soon as they break. But I have had excellent success in finding payphones in grocery stores and shopping malls, and every once in a while there I find a standalone phone booth.

If you can find a payphone, then using it to make calls economically is easy. Some time ago (in 2007?! the charge for using a payphone increased to fifty cents. As I am financially irresponsible, I rarely have quarters with me. Fortunately, there is a much cheaper and more convenient way to make calls: go to a Loblaws-affiliated grocery store and purchase a $5 Presidents Choice long distance card. Unlike other long distance cards these cards only charge for the time you use -- there is no big upfront deduction simply for making a call. The cards are intended for long distance, but they work perfectly well on domestic numbers too. You initiate the call by dialing a 1-866 number, which is toll-free and thus can be dialed without quarters on a payphone.

The cards last for six months. Because I am only making short calls to coordinate with others, I have used less than a dollar on my card so far. (I will probably give it away a month before it expires, to someone who actually makes long distance calls.)

The other big advantage of this solution is that I can't spend a phone card on chocolate bars, which is not the case with quarters. That means I am more likely to be able to make a phone call when I need to.

This is not a perfect solution. If I had a working cellphone (even one that was not activated) then I could make emergency 911 calls. Nobody can call me using this method. And finding a payphone can be frustrating. But for now this trick works pretty well for those of us who insist on being dinosaurs.