The first public pay phone was installed 124 years ago, on August 13, 1889, at a bank in Hartford, Connecticut. (We’re one day late, but hey, yesterday wasn’t Wednesday!) Before the pay phone, there were pay stations—booths manned by employees of the telephone company who would take your money in exchange for your call. Alas, pay phones are a dying breed. There are less than 500,000 of them still in operation today, according to the American Public Communications Council. (It’s a paltry number when you compare it to the 321.7 million cell phone subscribers chirping across the nation.) So the next time you see a pay phone, grab some windex and paper towels, give the receiver a quick clean (these first steps are just for germaphobes like me), and then make a call. Who knows how many more chances you’ll get. (And don’t worry: It won’t cost you much. Many charge as little as $1 for a 10-minute call.)
Using a pay phone because you lost your cell phone? Here’s how to restore all your contacts—fast—once you spring for a new one.