Phone Booths, Superman and Me

PhoneBooth IIDoes anyone else miss telephone booths?

Besides Superman, I mean. Doubtless, the disappearance of his dressing rooms has sent him scrambling for new ones, slowing his response times. No wonder Superman does not appear at cataclysmic events these days.

Critics have suggested he could save the world in street clothes. What? Everyone knows Superman cannot fly without his cape. However, even as a child, I wondered how blue tights contributed to his superpowers. Though I wore leotards from November through March, I never could leap tall buildings, no matter how many bounds I took.

I also wondered why passersby never noticed Superman disrobing. How could his mom allow that! Still, I understood his need for privacy.

Now, seeing a rare booth, I want to exchange pleasantries, even if the phone has retired. I close the door and remember when my phone wasn’t smarter than me.

I also recall when discussions of overflowing toilets, gall bladder surgeries and ex-lovers were conducted without audiences of thousands.

Not that I don’t appreciate cell phone convenience and safety. I can’t imagine driving alone at night without one, and even less, my daughters’ travel with car seats and diaper bags.

During college years, I spent quality time with 86 phone booths in Klamath County, Oregon.

My brother and I, working for a janitorial service, sprayed, scrubbed, and swept them. We took turns cleaning interiors and exteriors, as the desert sun turned them into roasting, rather than tanning, booths.

Paradoxically, they promoted community as well as privacy. Who, aged 35 and over, hasn’t borrowed a dime/quarter/dollar for a call? Or dug into a purse or pocket to help out a pal? Who hasn’t stuffed a booth with giggling girlfriends or guffawing guy friends to aid in calling the love of their dreams? Though mostly, we hung up.

With the advent of cell phones, however, plentiful phone booths have vanished.  Most teens will never conduct such a conference call, blushing with love, humiliation and camaraderie.

Few movies now feature a phone ringing at midnight in a shadowy booth, the hero answering a blood-freezing anonymous call.

Recyclers have thought of original ways to reclaim phone booths. Some cities have transformed them into recharging stations for electronic devices. Some have re-designed them into tiny shelters and/or restrooms for the homeless. Some literacy-minded citizens have converted booths into community mini-libraries, sharing books. Other cities, using the booths’ glass construction, have transformed them into aquariums.

Lovely idea, that. Very artsy. But I miss the phone booths.

Superman, wringing his cape and extracting wiggling fish from his leotards, no doubt misses them, too.

Poor guy needs suggestions for alternative emergency dressing rooms. In our rural area, he could use toolsheds, or, if desperate, hog barns. What could he use in yours?








8 thoughts on “Phone Booths, Superman and Me

    1. Rachael Phillips

      You are so smart, Mary! Now, instead of thinking I forgot to close the garage door AGAIN, I can tell my husband that Superman opened it. And, of course, he had to hurry to rescue someone, so he didn’t have time to close it.

      I like this! Thanks for your helpful comment.

  1. Becky Melby

    Too funny, Rachael. I remember my shocked sadness a few years ago when I noticed the phone booth where I’d scratched a heart and initials while talking long distance to a boy I shouldn’t have been talking to had vanished. A piece of history gone.

    Poor Superman. In rural Wisconsin we have a lot of cute little waiting-for-the-school-bus houses. Any kid would step aside to let a true hero use the space to change into tights.

  2. Rachael Phillips

    Awww, Becky. Years later, it’s easy to get sentimental about people we thank God we didn’t marry, right? How dare those callous haters of history remove your special phone booth. When they saw that heart and initials, they should have known better!

    Maybe Superman visits Wisconsin more often than Indiana for that very reason! The next time your grandkids loan him their school bus shelter, let me know. I want to ask Superman how, after all these years, he can don those tights so fast without a Superman vs. tights smackdown.

    Thanks for your comment, and hope you have a super writing day 🙂

  3. Mark Aikins

    Cosby routine:

    Cop: What are you doing in the phonebooth?

    I’m changing clothes, officer.

    You can’t change in there!

    But I’m Superman! Don’t you see the red S?

    I’ll give you a red S…and a black EYE if you don’t get out of there!!

    1. Rachael Phillips

      Mark, I love that sketch! Interesting that none of the other superheroes ever utilized phone booths for emergency wardrobe changes. I guess Batman and Robin always returned to the Bat Cave. Didn’t that ever make them late for a rescue gig?

      Thanks for your comment, and blessings on your writing!

  4. Henry

    “I also wondered why passersby never noticed Superman disrobing.”

    Superman is pretty old. When he started using phone booths as changing rooms, they were made of wood, not glass.

    My college had one of the last remaining wooden models in the basement of one of the dining halls in 1970. It was a paragon of privacy.

    1. rachael Post author

      Sorry I’m so late with this response, Henry! Yes, you’re right about those wooden phone booths. Actually, one of my pay-for-college jobs back in the 1970s was cleaning 86 phone booths a month, some of which included the vintage wooden ones in older downtown hotels. Wow, have things changed. Poor Superman–he doesn’t even have a glass booth now! But he, like us, will survive 🙂

      Thanks for your comment, and I hope you have a cell-phone-free day!



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *