BT (that’s British Telecom—a.k.a. the phone company) has been uninstalling the iconic red British telephone boxes all around the country in recent years.
Now, I understand that pay phones aren’t a money-making proposition anymore, but where cell phone coverage is spotty (and around here it has a bad case of the measles) they can be a lifeline. Besides, people like them. They’re iconic. They’re red. They’re shaped like Dr. Who’s police box.
In places, villages have fought to keep them, and as far as I know they’ve lost the battle, no matter how good their arguments. My village lost two—one by the beach, which could potentially have saved a life because it was in a measles spot, and another along the road, which was less important, although could have presented a better argument for keeping that one if somebody hadn’t set it on fire.
In a few places, though, villages lost the phones but kept the boxes and turned them into tiny red libraries, where people take books, leave books, and, judging by the number of images online, take pictures.
In Banbury, Oxfordshire, a (rare, and probably endangered) working phone shares its red box with a working library, and BT recently made enemies by threatening to remove the shelves because, they wrote, they’re “concerned the books and shelving could cause injury if they were to fall.”
No doubt. They’d cause an even worse injury if they exploded, but neither one is likely, and local residents launched a twitter campaign to save the library: #Saveourphoneboxlibrary.
I haven’t a clue what this has to do with the usual intercultural mayhem I write about. I’ve seen neighborhood-maintained libraries in the U.S. They looked like oversize birdhouses, not phone boxes. But then, I don’t think the U.S. has any phone boxes left in the wild–they’re all in zoos now, where they fall into despair and refuse to breed. Maybe that says something about our cultural differences. I leave it to you to figure out what.