The other day, while we were talking on the phone, a friend said, “I want to know exactly what it looks like, where you are sitting now?” I was calling from a typical Latin American phone booth store. Many of these places remind me of a mini version of a convenience store where they also sell candy, chips, soda and trinkets.
Residential landlines are less common in Galapagos than other parts of the world. It is a bureaucratic challenge to get a telephone number assigned to your home and it is expensive to install the line. Most people use cell phones or call from a phone booth store. The cost of the call depends on where you are calling. For example, I pay approximately 23 cents a minute to call the States and 65 cents a minute to call Switzerland.
The phone booth stores are one of the few air conditioned establishments in town. The cool environment is especially appreciated when it is hot and humid and you are sitting in an enclosed Plexiglas cubicle. Usually, there is a television with white plastic chairs facing the TV. I am sure the original intention of these chairs was to provide a comfortable sitting area for people waiting to use the phones. When I began noticing the phone booths empty and the chairs full, I realized the phone booth stores also serve as a local hangout, especially when it is hot outside. In Galapagos, residential air conditioning is virtually unheard of.