Coney Island: A Place to Call Home…

…and to call home from — that is, after you’re tired of running away from life.

Last night, Erica Desai, a young woman reported missing for the past two weeks, was found safe and sound in Coney Island.

While things in the rest of her life aren’t going as smoothly as her Indian family probably planned (not necessarily a criticism), there is one good aspect to this story. The expelled college student happened to find the one and only working pay phone in all of New York City (in a subway station! Now, that’s better than hitting the lottery). It might have taken her 14 days to find it, but find it she did — and right here, in our own backyard. Then again, it might be that she spent every single waking hour wandering the subway to do so.

Find out more about finding a working pay phone after the jump.

When my cell phone (slash life-in-an-electronic-device) was stolen last year, I yelled for someone to call the police. Those lazy people, whom I mistook for good Samaritans, told me to use the pay phone. So, I stopped running after the offender for what I thought was going to be a 9-1-1 dispatch call. There was no time to whip out the alcohol wipes to clean the greasy gook off, so I just picked up the handset and started to dial (press, whatever).

I guess my heavy breathing from running after the perp, scared the police dispatcher or it could be that the phone wasn’t working and there was no one on the other side to begin with. It was definitely the latter. I asked the bystanders, nicely the second time, if someone could please call the police. This time they said, “my phone doesn’t make outgoing calls” and “try the other phone”.

I could see the thief running away fast, so my thought, “Didn’t the FCC pass a rule that said all cell phones have to be able to call the police?” was just fleeting. Oops, no time to think big thoughts, but just enough for lower level thinking, “If that rotten thief hadn’t just made me feel what it’s like to have my treasured phone ripped out of my hand, I’d just grab one from those Stingy Samaritans.”

I lifted the second, germy phone and it, too, had no dial-tone. After years of not being able to find a reliable pay phone, I wasn’t surprised. It wasn’t the moment to think of past pet peeves, so I went back to the hot pursuit.

Eventually, the thief and my PDA got away, but the urban legends people left me with remained. Maybe our readers can tell me where I can get authoritative information about a few things:

Does the MTA have cameras in all of the stations and aren’t those pictures used to catch criminals? Is it true that all cell phones have to be able to make a 9-1-1 call even when it is locked for outgoing calls? Do cell phones have a mechanism to track them when they are stolen? Are pay phones that don’t have a dial tone capable of making a police call? Does AT & T and Apple have a way of tracing iPhones based on the serial number? Is the MTA working on increasing cellphone signals in the subway? If so, will they also expect us to keep the phones in our pocket?

That was a long and much-needed digression, but now it’s back to the original reason for this post: Erica Desai finding her way in Coney Island.

The thing that got me even more interested was this NBC News report that said, “Erica Desai,19, called 911 Monday morning from a pay phone at Stillwell and Avenue B, claiming she didn’t know where she was.” It’s no wonder she didn’t know where she was. Even Brooklyn born-and-bredders don’t know where that intersection is.

Stillwell Avenue and Avenue B? It could be that she is from North Carolina and isn’t familiar with Brooklyn or it could be that that there is no such intersection. There is also the slight chance that it was just a typo on the part of the writer, who might have meant to say Avenue P (though, it’s not in Coney Island), but that is not as interesting.

In any case, Coney Island has always been known to welcome visitors from all over for some rest and relaxation.

So, Erica, whatever your mom decides for you from now on — whenever you need a little break, our shores are here for you. When you get homesick, you can always call home — you know where to find the working pay phone. Now, can you tell us where it is? Better yet, contact the New York City Department of Information and Technology (DOITT) and tell them why you couldn’t call home sooner.

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