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As I crouch on the radiator wal­lowing in snot and tears, I struggle to catch a few garbled words of con­so­lation from my distant parents. It’s freshman year, and my mom’s voice is like a scratchy morse code buzzing in and out after crossing 1,900 miles from Wash­ington state to little Hillsdale, Michigan – the one place in the US that isn’t covered by AT&T. The only spot in the whole of Olds Dor­mitory where I get any cell service is the window-walled entryway which over­looks Hillsdale Street. So my life is falling apart, and the whole world can witness it.

It’s a pathetic scene, and while it might seem a little over­drawn (come on kid, grab a tissue and take a nap), this sce­nario will be familiar to a lot of girls in Olds Dor­mitory where there are only two places to have a private, nec­essary phone con­ver­sation. Either you can have a muffled con­ver­sation in your dorm with a brand new roommate who kindly pre­tends not to hear you snif­fling, or you can huddle on the entryway radiator. I opted for the latter and I was not the first to do so.

To promote the emo­tional wellness and privacy of the next freshman class, Hillsdale should install a pay­phone booth on the north side of the Olds entryway. The bench that occupies that plot of con­crete now only serves as prime real estate for young kissing couples who have been kicked out of the lobby due to vis­iting hours ending. By installing a landline there, the college would not only provide for stu­dents who are unable to reach their fam­ilies, but would dis­courage (or at least relocate) such uncom­fortable public dis­plays of affection.

A phone booth would provide an appro­pri­ately private space for emer­gency calls home. Make it a coin-op for economy’s sake (it’s not like the girls of Olds aren’t used to being charged $1.75 every time they do laundry, anyways). Charge a standard $0.50 fee for a half hour call. If roughly 80 girls live in Olds per semester, and if they each called home once a week for a 15 week semester, the pay­phone would gross approx­i­mately $600 by Christmas. Even after sub­tracting the cost of the phone booth itself (around $160), that’s at least enough to fund Olds’s massive holiday dec­o­rating projects.

Some might ask why stu­dents would want to pay to use a phone booth in the age of cell­phones. Sadly, many stu­dents have a hard time finding service any­where in Hillsdale, on or off campus. According to polls on CellReception.com, Hillsdale County gets an average rating of 2 out of 5 stars for cel­lular cov­erage. Let’s face it– we live in a corn­field in the middle of nowhere.

Willard Nichols, pres­ident of the American Public Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Council, expressed the sig­nif­i­cance of pay­phones when he stated, “There’s no question that pay phones are critical when there is an emer­gency … We saw in Sandy the same as Katrina. There were still pay phones working in New Orleans during the height of the storm when all other com­mu­ni­cation was out.” College drama may not compare to an emer­gency sit­u­ation of national impact, but in moments of real dis­tress, the frus­tration of bad reception adds emo­tional strain to the sit­u­ation that could be easily solved if stu­dents had the option of a landline.

In the end, it comes down to common courtesy. Dorm mates and passersby that I haven’t met don’t want to see mascara coursing down my cheeks, or to hear about my embar­rassing grades in Bio. I don’t want to tell them. But without a des­ig­nated place for private phone con­ver­sa­tions, things get a little too per­sonal. 

  • Jen­nifer Melfi

    I know that Hillsdale College is gen­erally stuck living in the 80’s, but it must be per­pet­ually 1988 in Olds.