Diane Goettel From "What To Do"


If you have pets, make sure that they are put away, locked up, leashed. Make sure that you can’t see their eyes. Close the curtains and turn up the air conditioning. Call the deli/gas station/grocery store/whoever sells ice and order at least three bags. Pull the vodka from the freezer. Stand in the kitchen with your hands wrapped around the bottle, numbing, until the ice arrives. Once you’ve paid the delivery person and closed the door, take the ice into the living room. Be sure to bring the vodka with you. Remove your couch cushions and replace them with the ice. You can turn on the television now if you like. Acceptable programming includes horror films, reality television about weddings, and documentaries about severe weather. Lie down on the ice and drink.


Get in the shower, preferably when it is raining outside, preferably around one in the morning. Stay in there for at least an hour, ensuring that your loofah details every inch and crevasse. Get out of the shower, towel off, and put on your favorite tee shirt, your most worn-in jeans, comfortable shoes. Collect your wallet, keys, and any necessary medication. Take a train out to the airport, rent a car, and park as close as possible to the landing strip. Recline your seat and close your eyes.


Strip. Cover your body in Post-It notes. Think about how it would feel to run through the streets screaming, dayglo feathers fluttering against your skin. Pop a pill and get in bed. Pile on the quilts. Drift into a deep, rustling sleep.


Imagine what it would be like if your hand fell off, your dominant hand. Imagine what it would be like if the moment that your hand fell off, after just a bounce or two, it became a baby, your baby.


Highway rest stops. Hotel lobbies. Grocery stores. Public high schools. Chain restaurants. Shopping malls.

These are the places where you may still be able to observe the Great American Payphone in the wild. But the outlook is grim. Numbers dwindle every year, and these gleaming black receivers with their flashing silver umbilicals and grand history of cinematic moments will not be with us forever. They’ve gone from threatened to endangered. Experts say they will be all but gone by the end of the next decade.

So go. Evenings and weekends. Holidays—national, religious, etc. Go in search of the remaining payphones. Take photographs. Take heart. Make a call.

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