The Phone Booth

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When I first came here, I found Canadian payphones really cool. France already didn’t have many public phones left because the cell phone market was booming. The few phone booths left were often dirty or out of service. Beside, to make a call, you first had to buy a phone card from a retailer, even for local locals, and you paid per minute.

In Ottawa, a few years ago, a single quarter was enough to make an unlimited local phone call. It now costs 50¢ for an unlimited number of minutes, and I still find that cheap enough compared to our outrageously expensive cell phone plans.

You can find phone booths anywhere: malls, library, bus stations, even in some bars or restaurants. Surprisingly, most of them are relatively clean and in working condition.

There is a phone booth right on Rideau Street, by the main bus stop. I find it fascinating. It’s right in the way and makes for a cool focus point to capture all the different people hanging around this colourful neighbourhood. These last few weeks, I took a few shots while I was waiting for my bus.

You can see the whole People of Ottawa set here.

The Bell Phone Booth on Rideau

Giving a Call

Rushing for the Bus

The Runner

On The Phone

The Shopper

The Garbageman


About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.


  1. The colours are wonderful in the last two – I suppose the sun was going down behind you and lighting everything that way, bringing out the reds. Gorgeous.

    I have never thought to appreciate the simple phone booth. The UK’s are practically a symbol of their country. Ours… I think we would not be happy if they disappeared completely, although with cell phones around their number may be reduced. But as a public safety measure they are important, and democratic too. Not everyone can afford a cell phone, and those things are not super reliable anyway, with their batteries forever running out. People in public spaces may very well need to phone the police or an ambulance…or a taxi. I’m pretty sure 911 calls are free at phone booths. A good thing. I like it like that. It’s society saying…we’ll help you. I hope we don’t lose them.

  2. Talking of the phone booth, when I was in Ottawa tao weeks ago, I noticed it was possible to send a text from the phone booth! I thought that was pretty amazing!
    Thanks for your blog, that I always love to read although I don’t really comment..

  3. Here in Tulsa, America it is hard to find a phone booth anymore. The ubiquitous cell phone has rendered them mostly obsolete. You still see them in transportation hubs, airports and bus stations, but elsewhere they are scarce. Moreover many people, myself included, have cancelled the home telephone, now referred to as a land line. Sue and I both have cell phones and find the home phone unnecessary. Times change.

  4. I dislike cellphones but soon enough I’ll have to get one because the phone booths are incredibly expensive in France! I think it’s about 0,75€ per minute but I’m not sure because it’s not advertised anywhere.

    Love the first pic by the way 🙂

  5. Oh I remember the last time I used a payphone: it was in March 2006, in the university. At that time, I didn’t have a cell phone, and I only had a landline in my apartment. My office phone on the other hand was limited to dialing local calls (only numbers with the 716 area code). However, I needed to call the office of Swiss International Air Lines, so I used a payphone. Today, that payphone is gone: they uninstalled it a while back!

  6. I kind of miss pay phones, kind of. Way back when when I was building pipelines and such way out in the middle of nowhere and cell phones didn’t exist. I spend many hours on pay phones freezing my butt off tring to get ahold (that’s a word in Oklahoma) of somebody who didn’t show up.

    The good thing was that when I hung up, nobody could reach me. Now everybody is available all the time.

  7. It only costs 50 cents for an unlimited conversation? Wow. I think in the US the cost depends on how much time you’re in there and after a few minutes you have to put in more money.

    I like how you can see the weather change in these photos. First everyone is in t-shirts, then long sleeved shirts, then jackets. You can see the difference in when the sun sets too based on the light. Very neat set of photos.

  8. @Margaret – I also hope we don’t lose them. Cell phones are still very expensive in Canada and I’m sure not everybody has one. Plus, in some “remote” part of town or in the country, you do need to have a phone available in case of emergency.

    @Emma – Thank you for taking the time to comment and say hi! I never noticed you could send text messages from payphones, I had no idea!

    @Tulsa Gentleman – I know a lot of people who cancel their landline in France because it’s quite expensive and cell phones are almost cheaper. However, it is not the case in Canada… cell phone rates are high here! I still use the landline quite a lot.

    @Cynthia – I agree, phone booths in France are so expensive! And dirty too.

    @Linguist-in-Waiting – Really? We still have a lot of payphones at the U. of Ottawa. I used them quite often to call Feng and get a rid before I got a cell phone and I still occasionally use them when I’m out of battery.

    @Yogi – I don’t always like cell phones because like you said, people are always available and expect you to be the same.

    @shionge – I’m sure it is! I think this part of the world is very cell phone oriented.

    @khengsiong – Oh, we don’t have this problem in Canada, it can get very quiet! 😆

    @Soleil – I put the photo in order for that reason, I find it fun to see the way people change as it gets colder 🙂

    @Em – Thank you!

    @London Caller – I love the iconic red phone booth, so original!

  9. Thats interesting Zhu, we dont have many payphones in the city but one can still see some randomly. The nice thing about my neighbourhood is that you can make phonecalls using a quarter using the phone below my apartment. I don’t know if they forgot to change the phone here, but that’s fantastic!!

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