Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Sign Still Gets Juice

Location: Bryant, Minneapolis, MN, USA
This is something I've long wondered about, one of a few Minneapolitan mysteries that no one has ever been able to explain to me.

Here is a pay telephone pole on the corner of E 38th St and 3rd Ave S, in the Bryant neighborhood of Minneapolis. I've driven past it a dozen hundred times, on my way to Hosmer Public Library or anything along Hiawatha Avenue. It's just some old relic of the days when using a pay phone did not entail a drug deal. As the sign indicates, it's built to accommodate motorists, allowing them to access a handy telephone from their vehicle.

The time restriction is a response to the illicit abuse of this facility. I remember when there were more pay telephones in operation in downtown Minneapolis. When they instituted the phone curfew/shut-off, dozens of unsavory types were driven like rats into respectable restaurants and businesses they had otherwise left alone, and they begged and harassed the owners to let them use their phones. Not long after this, of course, signs were posted up and down Hennepin Avenue, advising the general public that their phones were not for public use.

But I digress.

What's interesting is that even though the pay phone has been dismantled and removed, the lit-up sign here still receives electricity. Who's paying for it? Whose property is this? Who knows? The city is diligently supplying electricity for a pay phone sign to which no pay phone is attached, much less in operation.

And it's been like this for as long as I can remember. I've been meaning to take this set of photos for over a year, once I was somehow shaken out of my complacency to take another look at my environment with fresh eyes and question the things I'd taken for granted. One of those things is this sign.

Soon, I'll go ahead and post another unanswerable mystery that has plagued me for much, much longer than this innocuous little pay phone sign.

Update, Sept. 19, 2010: The power has been cut off! I hope this wasn't my fault. Not only did they cut off the power to this sign, they actually took it down entirely. There's no way of knowing whether it went to a collector, back to the city for a private museum, to gather dust on a shelf, or simply right into the trash.


Shanna (Crabbit) said...

I could imagine it's wired into the same system that runs the street lights. But still, you'd figure the city would have taken down the whole thing by now.


maybe it's like a cheap little streetlight for the city?

Nick said...

This might have actually been powered over the line, separate from commercial power.

At work, I run into a lot of equipment that will still have electricity even if there's an outage in the area, the same way your phone line might still work in an outage (assuming it isn't cordless or otherwise dependent on the commercial power grid).

If this is the case, Qwest was probably footing the bill. It was probably left over from the Northwestern Bell days, was undocumented, or didn't have a way of being identified from records. As equipment is upgraded and replaced at cross-boxes and pedestals, things like this are found and disconnected.