Sunday, March 1, 2015



It's a miracle, but the bureaucratic monstrosity known as the CRTC has produced a report saying pay phones have a role in Canadian society and need to be preserved.
Damn right!
Speaking as someone who thinks smart phones and cell phones and watch phones are wonderful, in their place that is, which is not in my face or when I'm talking to you or when you are pretending to be interesting company, I realize pay phones are unnecessary 99.9% of the time.
But what if you're poor or homeless or the battery has gone kerfooie or you're in a dead reception area. BCE is a rich outfit with stock near record highs. It can afford to leave a few pay phones even if it says it has 10,502 pay phones that only average one caller daily at 50 cents.
I no longer run  many meeting but I can assure that if I did, you would leave your phones at the door or hide them or I would deposit them in a round receptacle.
Perhaps this is fuelled partially by jealousy rather than just a wish to have a return to good manners. Heaven knows, my 50 years of journalism would have been a lot easier if I hadn't always been looking for a way to talk to the office or get a story to the office. And then balky computers came along to add to the frustration.
A wonderful teacher and writer, Ted Schrader, emphasized to me on Day One of Journalism at Ryerson that the first thing you did on a story was to figure out how to get it back to the editor. I spent a couple of decades doing that before there were far more phones around, and then the first clunky cell phones arrived.
You would be at a murder scene or a meeting or a trial in the middle of nowhere - believe me not everything happens on a Toronto street - and then spend hours just trying to find a pay phone to dictate for the next edition.
Some times the Star-ling got there first. The famous inquest into the RCMP drownings in Lake Simcoe that caused the plate in every boat giving the maximum weight took place in a country schoolhouse. The Tely guy found the nearest pay phone a mile  away and after he dictated, unscrewed the mouthpiece and took it. The Star guy arrived to discover the trickery but check-mated by stealing the earpiece. They agreed to share...but not with the Globe.
Another way to screw Star-ling was that after you dictated your story to rewrite, you then proceeded to read the telephone book over the line while the Star-ling cursed and threatened to punch you.
Three years ago, after I was incarcerated in four hospitals for three months and temporarily lost the ability to walk - dammit I could not even stand - I was shipped from one hospital to awful St. Joseph's in a wheelchair van to see if I still had the MRSA infection that the U. S. hospitals had given me along with the $85.000 bill.
I was the last patient of the day in the clinic just inside the Tranquility Gate entrance - some cruel gimmick name by healthcrats - and after a cursory look, the specialist fled along with all the staff who locked up everything. The van should have been there but I waited alone for an hour. I had no change for the only pay phone. I wheeled around and found a young immigrant cleaner who loaned me his cell phone. The dispatcher for the van had some silly excuse. Waited. Couldn't find the cleaner. Waited. Then remembered I had a secret VISA card against hospital rules and used it to place calls on the pay phone to the home hospital - my meal and medications were long overdue - and to yell at the dispatcher.
The driver finally arrived only to send me crashing down the wheelchair ramp. I remember the whole misadventure, from having the driver fired to that pay phone rescuing me.
Now if I can only remember to carry change. I haven't for years. About as long as I have carried a cell phone turned off so no one can bother me.  

No comments: