Ringing Payphones

This question may have already been asked and answered, if thats the case i apologise.

Anyway, In many many movies and tv shows i’ve seen people ring payphones. Is this possible? I’ve always been really curious.


Yes it’s possible, if you have the phone number.

Maybe the question needs be rephrased then…
how would you get the number for somthing like that?

Around here most of the payphones have the number on them.

I used to have a grand old time at the local tourist trap ringing the payphones with my cell and toying with those curious enough to answer.

Many nights I would ring the payphone from home to find out if anything interesting was going on there before I made the drive down.

Well, I don’t know about now… but each payphone used to have the number right on the phone.

thats SO good, why havn’t i noticed that before…that would be so useful and such a funny prank to do at like 2 in the morning at a payphone outside say a nightclub or in the city center

David Letterman used to do a bit where he would pull a phone out from under his desk and call the payphones on the street corner right outside the studio (I seem to remember this was when he was at the NBC studios, not on Broadway, but I could be wrong).

He would ask them all kinds of humorous questions and if they were interesting enough, he’d bring them into the studio and up on stage.

I once worked in a store across the street from a payphone. My boss had got the number, and during slow spots, we would call it when someone was nearby. The store had a huge glass front, so we could see everything, but it was slightly tinted, so it was almost impossible to see in from across the street in full daylight. Watching them look around trying to find us was a hoot. I felt like Alan Funt.

The place I work has a bank of pay phones, and sometine some would call their boyfriend (or girl friend) and leave the pay #, then they would get tired of waiting, our bartender (female) had a ball answering the phones. She would run acros the lobby to get it befor they hung up.She would say something like "nanas whore house, do you want an innee or and outtee, (innie or outtie??), I’d like to know what the boyfiend said when he did get the girlfriend.

Spelling and gremmer subject to change without notice.

Unfortunately many pay phones now bear labels stating that they do not accept incoming calls. Get your pranks in while you still can.

On a related note, there used to be a code (I think it was 580 or 340) one could punch into certain pay phones to make them ring. It was ostensibly for technicians to test them, but some immature people would start them ringing at odd times. The code has since been removed or changed, probably due to the mischievous efforts of my high school friends.

The majority of pay-phones in Toronto no-longer take incoming calls. You have to find one of the old “brown boxes”. Any of the new phones with the digital displays and credit-card/phone card readers don’t work.

What was the intended use for this feature? Since pay phones are designed from the ground up as pay phones (right?), it must have been a conscious decision to include a bell (ringer) in them.

I believe the practice of blocking incoming calls to pay phones started in the late ‘80’s/early ‘90’s (at least around here) when drug dealers started using them to make their activities less traceable. All you’d have to do is know the number of the pay phone on the corner where you normally did business. And since it was basically impossible to connect a public phone to a specific individual (and I bet almost impossible to get permission to wiretap a public phone anyway), it would make the police and prosecutors’ jobs that much more difficult.

Bummer; sometimes it can be handy. I used to do this a lot when I was a poor student, or before cell phones and calling cards, from places like airports when I was delayed. I’d call someone at the outrageous pay-phone cash rate for long-distance calls (particularly my long-distance boyfriend my freshman year of college; the phone company in NY was on strike when the fall semester started, so we had a dorm of 700 people who couldn’t get phone service connected in their rooms and were all trying to use the 2 pay phones in the lobby) and have them call me back at their much cheaper rate.

So that, before cell phones and pagers, someone could call you if you were not near your phone.

Say you were stranded because of a car breakdown. You call them. Leave a message including the number where you could be reached and they would call you back.

Or, an example from my past, you are going to meet a friend, but he’s not sure when he’ll be on his way. You leave a number to a pay phone nearby and wait for his call so you can go meet up.

People did funny things before cell phones.

When I lived in D.C ('80s), the incoming call function was disabled on most of the pay phones to disrupt drug deals. Just in time for the dealers to get beepers/pagers. It was odd when I moved somewhere and the incoming call function worked.

“Search the Payphone Project’s database of a half-million payphone numbers.”

Fun stuff.

In the late eighties/early nineties, there used to be a guy that consistently called a certain payphone in downtown Vancouver.

If you answered, the first question he’d ask was “Do you like boxing?”

What he did was randomly offer strangers money in exchange for beating him up. (Well, maybe not randomly, since it was clear from his comments that he had a line-of-sight to the payphone.)

Different strokes.

It used to be possible to get a payphone to call itself (don’t stop to ask why just yet). You could pick up the payphone, dial an exchange that was slightly different from the phone’s actual exchange (we used 579 instead of 539; I don’t know if this worked anywhere else) and then quickly hang up, pick up, and hang up again. Within about five seconds, the payphone would start ringing. Anyone answering the phone would hear a busy signal.

It was a very childish prank, but I promise you that when I was seven, this was the very pinnacle of humor.

Of course in ages past - even as late as the 1950s - a fair number of people didn’t have home phones. You could call Joe at the candy store (or more likely the bar) and the proprietor would send a kid upstairs or down the block to fetch him.

I used to contribute to The Payphone Project several years ago.

Do you folks believe in synchronicity? Just yesterday, I watched the movie, “Phone Booth.”

Up until a few years ago there was a pay phone in the middle of nowhere, i.e. the Mohave Desert. Originally put in to serve a number of residents in the vicinity who worked for a now defunct mining company. Unitl Pacific? Telephone decided it no longer wanted to suport a losing pay phone booth, it bagan receiving phone call from all over the world to see who would answer. A desert rat frequently answer the call and carried on a short conversation.

It was known as the “Mohave Phone Booth,” 1-(760)-733-9960 and web sites at: www.cardhouse.com and wwwdeadpan.net/mpb/ Sadly the phone booth is long gone and probably the desert rat also.

Had AT&T still had all the long distance service they would probably have added more phones to encourage more LD calls.