Courtesy Phone: It Rings for Thee

Ring, ring, ring...When it comes to dead media, I’m something of a tomb raider (at least I was while penning a futuristic ode to the Singularity, Google-gone-awry and 70s sci-fi flicks). Of course, scribe Bruce Sterling’s Dead Media Project aided in this endeavor and recently I encountered a similar project at Netherlands-based Experimental Jetset’s rather stylish Lost Formats Preservation Society page.

Neither of these sites, however, references the myriad means of personal communication devices facing extinction in our Digital Age. The pay-phone, of course, has long been a goner thanks to the advent of mobile phones, which, I suppose is great for everyone except Dr. Who and Clark Kent who relied heavily on phone booths for their respective travel and sartorial needs. An often overlooked endangered species of phone is the once-ubiquitous “white courtesy phone” whose natural habitat of airports and finer department stores has been steadily chewed by the Bluetoothed and Jawboned. I spotted the white courtesy phone pictured here in the wild, cowering near an exit at SFO’s International terminal. As I studied its ivory handset, yellowed by time and neglect, a sort of Borgesian fantasy sprung to mind: Fingerprint the phone. Find who last used it. Call them. Learn that they died years ago after receiving a call from Death. On a white courtesy phone. Make clever allusion to For Whom the Bell Tolls. Send to McSweeney’s.

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