Pay phones - they just don't make 'em like they used to

News item: A new stainless-steel pay telephone was installed in a Minneapolis restaurant Tuesday. It looks much like the familiar Bell System pay phones, but with a significant difference: It's not owned by that familiar utility. Under a recently enacted Minnesota law, the first in the nation, the restaurant owner had the old pay phone removed and replaced it with one from a new firm that will give him a bigger share of the take.

Charley Fletcher had a problem. His car had just stalled at the corner of Claiborne and Vine and he was already late for an important meeting with his boss, Mr. Ramrod.

Since his new cellular auto phone had not yet been installed, Charley set out to find a pay phone. If he could get to Ramrod quickly enough, the boss might be willing to reschedule the meeting. Spotting a convenience store, Charley headed for it; but, suddenly, a man in a soiled apron grabbed him by his jacket lapels.

''I'll bet you're going in there to use the pay phone, right?'' Charley gulped and nodded. ''Look, I run the deli across the street and I've got a new, state-of-the-art Chatter's Delight. This store has a plain old pay phone. Also, I'm offering an introductory rebate of 5 cents per call.''

Just then Charley heard a shout from the opposite corner: ''Hey, Mac,'' yelled a woman from the door of Maisie's Breakfast Nook. ''Come use my new Chronomatic Teledisco and I'll give you a free cup of coffee and doughnut - plain or glazed.''

Tearing himself from the grasp of the deli man, Charley bolted into the store. Sure enough, there was the familiar phone booth - occupied.

Charley put his quarter back in his pocket and decided to try to find a mechanic. ''I hope Ramrod is in a good mood this morning,'' he thought. ''Otherwise, I guess I can tell the people at the unemployment office I'm a victim of the technological revolution.''

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