[Wired] If a Phone Rings in the Desert...

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From: Linda (joelinda1@home.com)
Date: Thu May 25 2000 - 12:38:39 PDT


                         http://wired.lycos.com/news/business/0,1367,36542,00.html

                         If a Phone Rings in the Desert...
                         by Leander Kahney

                         3:00 a.m. May. 24, 2000 PDT

                                                                                                       
                                                                                                          

                         What happens when a tourist attraction, in this case a phone booth in the middle of nowhere, becomes too
                         popular? The National Park Service removes everything but the ring, that's what.

                         Located smack in the middle of the Mojave Desert at the end of a dirt road, the Mojave Phone Booth
                         attracted so many visitors to an environmentally sensitive area that the NPS cut the connection and
                         removed the booth last week.

                         At least 15 miles from the nearest paved road, which runs through the vast nowhere
                         between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, the phone was installed decades ago for workers at a
                         now closed cinder mine.

                         Nothing, absolutely nothing, except rocks and Joshua trees, can be seen from the booth,
                         according to Godfrey Daniels, an Arizona computer consultant who popularized the outpost.

                         Three years ago, after a friend told Daniels about the phone, he began dialing it every day,
                         hoping for an answer.

                         Daniels documented his obsession -- A Pointless Exercise in Telephony -- and the sheer
                         weirdness of it persuaded people from all over the planet to call the booth's number
                         (760-733-9969).

                         "You can be sitting bored out of your mind at work and itís like traveling," said Daniels of
                         the attraction the phone exerted. "You can make something happen far away."

                         For the longest time, the phone attracted only a trickle of visitors. Then came a rash of
                         news stories in the national media, and curiosity seekers flooded the site.

                         "There were a lot of visitors," Daniels said, "Well, for out there, there were a lot of visitors.
                         Mainly at weekends. The chances of someone answering the phone were significantly
                         improved from in the past."

                         Now Daniels said he is in two minds about the booth's removal. While its popularity now
                         bores him, he remains skeptical of the National Parks Service rationale for its removal.

                         "I donít think the NPS had a right to remove it," he said. "They canít say what the negative
                         environmental impact is. If there was a negative environmental impact, they should be able
                         to say what it is."

                         The spokesperson for the Mojave National Preserve, which oversees the park, forwarded
                         requests for comment on the booth situation to Pacific Bell, which didn't return phone calls.
                         Neither did the the NPS.

                         The official joint statement simply states: "After weighing environmental concerns and
                         public need, Pacific Bell and the National Park Service agreed to remove a pay phone
                         located in a remote pocket of the Mojave National Preserve."

                         Whatever the reason, fans of the booth aren't buying it. Daniels estimated he has received
                         nearly 200 emails protesting its removal in the last few days. Many came from visitors
                         claiming the land around the booth remains unblemished despite the increased traffic.

                         "I was very impressed at how clean and untarnished the area was for being so popular,"
                         wrote "Robin," who visited last month. "There was no trash or debris, no trampled plants,
                         no broken glass.... It looks to me like the people who have taken the time to visit the
                         booth were very aware of keeping things in order."

                         Pacific Bell was a reluctant party in the boothís removal, Daniels said, because of all the
                         publicity it had received. The company had even replaced some of the shot-out windows
                         with ones displaying the companyís logo.

                         And now, although the phone's gone, the number still rings, which Daniels said is a
                         particularly cruel trick because unsuspecting callers believe the phone is still there.

                         Daniels said he hopes Pacific Bell will sell him the booth. If that happens, he plans to install
                         the booth in a very remote, secret location and install a telecom link-up. He declined to
                         discuss the details.

                         "If I had to do this all over again, I would do it very differently," he said. "I would keep it
                         very, very quiet."


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