True gripes: Dial-a-drill pay phones

Why are all our telephone boxes plagued by noise?
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The Independent Culture
I would like to know who chooses the positions for public telephone boxes. I don't know why, but they seem to think that it is best to put them in the noisiest places possible. There is always some kind of racket going on outside phone boxes. You have to stand there with one hand over your ear and shout at the top of your voice while you make a call, so that the person at the other end develops the impression that you have an aggressive streak.

You are always likely to find phone boxes next to ring roads and traffic junctions, where lorry drivers perform deafening gear-changes. Or outside fire stations. Or, worst of all, on sections of pavement scheduled to be dug up with pneumatic drills. The man with the drill is at the centre of a little microcosm of pure noises following a line that his foreman has drawn on the pavement. He doesn't care that you are trying to make an important call in the glass box nearby. In fact, he doesn't care about anything except making his cut in the ground so that he can get his hole dug. I would have thought a bit of forward planning would help. I mean, you'd think it would be better to dig a trench, put in all the necessary cables and pipes that a modern city needs, fill it back up, and then erect a phone box.

Apparently, this is too simple. Instead, the phone box goes in first, and then forever after new trenches are dug past it. With pneumatic drills.

It reminds me of those people at the BBC who drill holes which are broadcast as background noise on the Today programme or The World at One. They don't seem bothered that there is a live programme going out. Why don't they drill their holes during pre-recorded items such as the weather forecast? (Ha.)

Whoever organises all this probably went to the same school of management as the people who choose the positions for phone boxes. You can just imagine the sort of conversation they have when site-hunting, for example, outside a car-breaker's yard: "This seems like a suitable place for a phone box, doesn't it?"

"Pardon? I can't hear you."

"Good; that's agreed then."

The problem is not helped by the proliferation of "open" phone boxes. The new-style boxes either consist of a hood into which you are supposed to stick your head, or they have sides that end some distance from the ground. At least with the old red phone boxes it made a difference if you closed the door. These are sadly missed. Everybody knows why the red ones were got rid of in the first place. She's gone now, but no one dares put them back.

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