Monday, January 21, 2008

A Dream of Cell Phone Booths

Now that everyone has cell phones, I miss the privacy of cell phone booths and nooks. A cell phone is convenient to call for directions while driving, arrange to meet a service representative without staying home all afternoon, or to let someone know I’m running late. On the other hand, the constant chatter that surrounds me everywhere I go is irritating. Doesn’t anyone want to be here now?

When I first moved to South Florida, I didn’t have long-distance access to the phone where I stayed. I often went to an elegant beachside hotel. I could grab a drink at the bar and ensconce myself in a comfortable phone nook for private conversations. As I recall these nooks, they had upholstered walls, nice wooden shelves, comfortable padded benches, and a pay phone. They were deep enough so that a door wasn’t necessary and sufficiently soundproof to offer privacy. All in all, these were a lot more comfortable than metal street boxes.

I thought about calling a friend today while I was waiting for my car to be waxed, but it was too noisy everywhere I went to feel comfortable doing it. It was noisy inside the car wash lounge, and even noisier out on the street with six lanes of traffic whizzing past. I stopped for lunch at the Chicken Kitchen. Even though it wasn’t crowded, I did not feel comfortable having a personal conversation at an open booth in that cavernous space.

Perhaps it is time to bring back some variation of the phone booth. Not much is available yet, and what there is lacks comfort.

Cell Atlantic’s portable cell phone booth can be stored in a backpack. It looks like a person could suffocate in there.

The Cell Phone Zone is more useful, but the round shape makes it an impractical use of space for a bank of them at an airport or in a hotel lobby. It doesn’t seem to have a cushy seat, either.

The red melamine booth, top, evokes those that vanished from our streets not so long ago. See Wired for more information.

They also are available in wood finish, as depicted at engadget.

Is it only a dream to think that someday cell phone etiquette will require the incessant talkers among us to retire to private places, and that designers will make these comfortable enough so that users will enjoy them?

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