The Booth

Who remembers standing on line in town or the Estates waiting to make a call?. Back then, cellphones were none existent, or were simply out of reach for ordinary folks. If you wanted to communicate with someone, you had two options – either send them a letter by snail mail, or, assuming they had access to a phone, call them from a booth.

We stood in line armed with as many coins as one could find or afford. Woe to you if you are given to bad luck. Yes, there are people who are given to bad luck- like those who always end up with that broken shopping cart that moves sideways. If that’s you, the person ahead of you on that phone booth queue would be eighteen year old girl, clutching a pink coin pouch, full of shiny shillings. She would line the coin slot with shillings, place the coin pouch strategically on the call unit where it was within reach for quick retrieval of coins to replenish the slot.

You stood there praying that the call goes unanswered. But alas, it is
answered.

Cling cling cling, the coins go.

“Hallo. May speak to David”

You are thinking, Ok, may be it is a serious call after all. Serious calls do not take long.

“Davie? Sasa? Mambo? Poa tu. Eh. Eh. Uh?” Cling.Cling, more coins.

“Eh. Eh. Eeh. Eeh. Haha. Uh uh. Eh. Aiiii. Uh uh.” Cling cling.

You are getting mad 😡. What could David possibly be saying from the other end that elicited a chain of Ehs, uhs and aiii as legit responses?”

“Ati nini? Haha. Uh uh. No… it’s not like that. Uh uh. Eh (giggles)” Cling cling

By this time, your blood pressure has risen to dangerous levels, so you move to another booth, where a middle aged man is speaking at the top of his voice.

“Haro. Haro. Haro. Huyo ni Mama Dano? Haro? Unanikia”.

That was always a good sign. People who go ‘unanisikia’ usually do not have time to waste. They go straight to the point.

And so you waited patiently behind Mama Dano’s caller. When your turn comes, you dial the number and once it is answered, the coins go cling cling cling, only to come out from the little refund slot below. You try again. Same results. The coin box is full -(that’s what I mean – unlucky people). And the next one is out of order. Or the handset has been ripped.

So you go back to Miss. Pink Coin Purse’s booth. She is still eh-uh-ing with Davie.

That’s where you make a silent prayer—that you would overcome to temptation to reach for the handset and hang up.

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BTW, what became of the booths? Would love to have one for a souvenir.

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