With the news that more than half of subway pay phones don't work, the once ubiquitous New York City object plummets even further down the black hole of obsolescence. Now, we all knew this was coming, obviously. Pay phones have been in decline for years now. And while The L Mag's Lauren Beck claims to have used a pay phone about "a year ago, last spring maybe?" when her cell phone died, I would personally rather ask a stranger on the street to use his phone rather than risk getting chlamydia of the ear from a pay phone. But even so, it's still kind of sad to realize that soon it won't even be an option for me to get chlamydia in my ear. How boring. So, in honor of the slowly dying, basically on life support, New York City pay phone, I've compiled a list of other dearly departed objects of city living. These were all things that once seemed like they'd never go away. And now they're gone. GONE. Just as one day, we all will be too.
Subway tokens seemed unstoppable. Why would anyone ever want to replace them with a flimsy, disposable piece of plastic? I remember when Metrocards were first introduced and I would still ask the toll booth clerks for tokens because they were what authentic New Yorkers carried. And then suddenly, tokens weren't even accepted anymore. Those were dark days, matched only by the discontinuation of the 9 train a few years later. That was hard for me too. But, now, of course, who can even remember a good reason for wanting more loose change around? I mean, most people don't even carry cash anymore, much less keep track of coins. The Metrocard just makes so much more sense. Although, take heed, Metrocard-lovers (there must be some out there, right? right???) because even the Metrocard's day will come. Most modern transit systems allow passengers to use their debit or credit cards, thus eliminating the need for a distinct fare card. The future is wide open.
Like many New Yorkers, the first words that I could read by myself were "walk" and "don't walk." That little white man on the go and his stationary red counterpart were only introduced in 2000 as a way to make the traffic signals easier for non-English speakers to understand. Basically, we are now living in simpler times. And by simpler, I mean stupider. Because, while I am not generally this much of a nativist reactionary, it's just two words! Learn how to read those two words. Or, like, watch what everyone else is doing. And either cross or don't. I don't know, check to see if cars are coming, maybe? What is this? Los Angeles? This might easily be the thing that's changed that I feel the most bitter about, even though it's been more of a decade since the death of "Walk/Don't Walk," I hold a grudge. I am a grudge-holder. RIP.
Rows of parking meters have lined the sidewalks of New York City for decades, but no longer. Now New York has those awful machines in the middle of blocks where you have to get a slip of paper to stick in your windshield. They also have these in Los Angeles. What special hell is New York becoming? Anyway, the reason this sucks is that the old parking meters were great because sometimes they would still have time on them or sometimes they were broken and then you'd get to park for free. It felt like winning the lottery when you pulled into a broken meter. That's no longer possible. There's no use in dreaming that dream anymore. All our dreams are dead.
The Anthora Coffee Cup
These cups used to be everywhere. When I was little I wasn't allowed to drink coffee because of growth-stunting reasons or something and so I would get steamed milk in one of these cups from the Hungarian Pastry Shop and I felt so grown up. What do kids have now? Starbucks cups? That's terrible. The Anthora cup used to be everywhere, just like the classic Greek diner, which is also a disappearing entity, but they're not so common anymore. The design has stayed alive in tchotchkes like an Anthora-themed change purse and other novelty items, but it's not the same. Nothing is the same.
The Washington Square Park (or Other NYC Park) Weed Dealer
It used to make me feel, as a pre-teen, so grown up when some totally sketchy guy would come up to me and my friends and say "smoke, smoke" under his breath. I was so excited that someone thought I was cool enough to do drugs. Now as an adult I know that doing drugs is never, ever cool. But back then? All I wanted was to be cool. How will kids know if they're cool now? It seems like a scary time to be growing up. Sure, most of what was offered to me was probably oregano. And I never bought any because I wasn't that much of an idiot, even back then, but it was nice to know those guys were there. Those were the days, I guess. But they're long gone now. And we're in a brave new world without pay phones or parking meters or Washington Square Park weed dealers. I'm not worried though. I think we're all going to be ok.
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