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Bring back phone booths in the cellphone era? Yes, here's why

Someone suggested to me the other day that we bring back phone booths. At first I thought he was joking. After all, phone booths mostly disappeared from our lives about the same time as the Ford Pinto, the milkman and "Charlie's Angels."

Once cellphones became "essential" for anyone over the age of 12, it was — presumably — no longer necessary for people to rely on pay phones to communicate with loved ones and other very important people while traveling or shopping at the mall.

I don't think the person who advocated a return of phone booths was talking about pay phones. I think he was suggesting that people who use cellphones need a private place to talk, even if they don't know it.

He's right. I can't tell you how many times I've been waiting in a line at the bank or grocery store, attending a sporting event or sitting in a restaurant when I've been subjected to conversations that a couple of decades ago would have been considered highly private. Just in the past month, I've had the privilege of listening to, through no fault of my own, conversations ranging from a business owner tersely telling an employee what he needs to do to close a deal, to a mother telling her child why it was inappropriate for him or her to do whatever it is he or she had asked her mom for permission to do without first finishing his or her homework.

I think we've all — grudgingly in my case — accepted the fact that we can't ban cellphone use in public places. However, perhaps we can redirect those private conversations to private places. I don't mean the bathroom. That's just disgusting. A return of phone booths might be the answer.


Plus, it would give those long-retired superheroes some of us grew up with a place to change their clothes.

What do you think?


Time for fans to stop berating officials who enforce safety rules

I was at Rochester Rec Center for a hockey game Thursday night when a referee called a penalty on a player for checking from behind. It was a two-and-10 penalty, meaning the offending player had to sit out for 10 minutes of playing time. His team was shorthanded for two minutes.

It was absolutely the right call. A player was digging for the puck against the boards with his back to an approaching player from the other team. The approaching player checked the opposing player right between the numbers on his jersey. It wasn't a malicious hit. It didn't even result in the other player falling down. It's a play that might not have resulted in a penalty three weeks ago, before Benilde-St. Margaret's player Jack Jablonski was paralyzed by a hit from behind.

It was the correct call. The penalized player didn't say a word. Neither did his coaches. A fan standing near me hollered at the official. (It was a sparsely attended game and the guy was loud, so I'm positive the ref and everyone on one side of the rec center could hear him.)

"That's bull," he yelled. "That's not a penalty!" "How can you call a penalty on that! That's the same bull... you called in the JV game! You guys are awful!"


I couldn't help myself. "How is that not a penalty?" I said. "He was clearly hit from behind. The refs have to call that."

"It wasn't checking from behind! You're allowed to do that when he has the puck," he said.

"Not when you can clearly see those two numbers on the guy's back," I said.

We ignored each other after that.

As a diehard fan of the game and former hockey parent and coach, I agree wholeheartedly with virtually every suggestion that's been made to deal with the problem of checking from behind: Pledges. Coaches teaching the rules. Refs enforcing the rules. Kids following the rules.

Parents and other fans have a role in this, too. Nothing irritates me more than when a fan berates an official for enforcing a rule, especially a rule that's in place to help ensure the safety of the players. It has to stop.

I wonder how that parent would have reacted if it had been his kid who was hit from behind?

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