Search the Site

An Unusual Airport Occurrence

I was at O’Hare airport yesterday and saw something very unusual: a person actually using a pay phone.

Airports have enormous numbers of pay phones which, if you observe them, go virtually untouched. At best you will see a senior citizen using one from time to time (as I did yesterday).

The pay phone is one invention whose time has largely come and gone. I don’t know the numbers, but I can’t believe anybody is making money from airport pay phones anymore. It must be more trouble to take them out than to leave them.

Whoever runs O’Hare has put in a lot of nice touches for travelers. There are the neon lights in the tunnel from terminal B to terminal C. (Although it used to be much more fun when accompanied by music … does anyone know why they stopped the music?) There are play areas for kids, and a large dinosaur replica.

But one of the best things they’ve done — which I have never seen anywhere else — is to rip out the banks of pay phones and replace them with an airport’s most precious and elusive commodity: electrical outlets. I am constantly prowling around airports looking for a way to recharge my computer, cell phone, or beloved iPod. If you have ever looked, you will know that one common denominator of airports is a scarcity of public electrical outlets.

Where the phone banks once were, O’Hare has placed chairs, a counter, and rows of outlets. These work spaces are now far more crowded than any of the airport’s bars.

What a great idea. I suspect we’ll see this same phenomenon popping up in airports everywhere.