Phone Booth Sketch

A well dressed business man (BM) checks his watch and walks briskly up to a pay phone. Just as he’s about to pick up the receiver a scraggly bum (SG), wearing dirty odds and ends, darts in front of him and grabs the receiver.

BM is furious. He reaches out to tap the shoulder of SG, who’s digging in one of his pockets for change. As he’s about to touch SG, BM looks again at his surroundings and thinks better of it. BM takes a step back to wait, still pissed. SG continues to dig for change in another pocket. A coin falls out and rolls up to BM’s feet.

BM looks down at the coin and squints. SG turns and, while still holding the receiver, tries to bend down and grab the coin. He stretches and groans, but can’t reach.

SG
You mind?

BM
A Canadian nickel?

SG glares at him. BM relents, bends down to pick up the coin and deposits it in SG’s grubby hand. SG turns, and without thanking him, deposits the Canadian nickel in the phone. As BM watches, SG slowly, deliberately, dials only four digits on the phone and stands, waiting, with the receiver pressed to his ear.

BM begins to unravel. He picks up his briefcase, takes a few steps and looks in the distance for another phone. He then looks in the other direction. No luck. He slams his briefcase down heavily and looks at his watch.

SG MUMBLES into the phone incoherently. BM tries to make it out, but can’t. SG nods, then holds the receiver as far away from his body as possible in his outstretched right arm.

BM shakes his head, musters his courage and reaches out to tap SG on the shoulder but SG changes hands with the phone and now holds it as far away as possible with his left arm.

BM takes a step back, kicks at his briefcase and SIGHS heavily.

SG turns angrily.

SG
You mind? I’m having a personal conversation here.

BM
With who? You’re not even holding the phone to your ear?

SG (bringing phone back)
I am now.

SG turns back to the booth.

BM
Look! (reaches in to his back pocket and pulls out his wallet). I’ll give you a dollar!

SG turns, considers, then turns back and begins to MUMBLE into the receiver again. BM reddens, picks up his briefcase and swings it in an arc to bring it down on SG’s head. Mid-swing he deliberately changes the path of the briefcase and lets it pass SG’s head with inches to spare. BM uses the force of the swing to spin himself around and he marches off, STOMPING and CURSING to try and find another phone.

SG takes no notice and begins to MUMBLE in German into the phone. Cupping the phone with his shoulder to his ear, he bends down to take off his shoe and leans down to pick at his toes, while repeatedly saying “Yah, Yah.”

BM strides back and glares at him. SG switches to Spanish.

SG
Si, Si.

BM
Look! Please stop screwing around! I need to use the phone!

SG (turns)
Why?

BM
My car broke down and I’m late for a meeting with my boss.

SG
Is it a nice car?

BM
What?

SG
I wouldn’t leave a nice car laying around in this neighborhood. (turns to phone and then turns back, cupping phone for privacy) Don’t you types typically have a cell phone?

BM
You types? (takes a deep breath) It’s also broken…

SG
What?

BM
My cell phone!

SG
You seem a bit hard on things. Not sure I want you using my phone.

SG takes the phone away from his ear and sticks it in his pants.

BM
Are you insane?

SG
Never tested – why?

BM
You have the phone shoved down your pants!

SG
Sure, I do this with all the phones around here.

BM (aghast)
All the phones? (he looks off in the direction he had stormed off earlier) Gagh!

He spits on his sleeve and rubs the side of his face frantically.

SG
Look. What do you really want?

BM
I want to hit you as hard as I can.

SG
Then do it if it’ll make you feel better.

BM
I can’t!

SG (leaning closer)
Scared I’d sue? Might lose the house you can’t afford? The cold, unfeeling wife? The job you hate?

BM
I like my job actually.

SG
You don’t seem very good at it. Lots of wasting time…

BM (enraged)
I’ll do it – don’t push me!

SG takes the phone out of his pants and hangs it up. He turns to square up to BM, who is coiled up to punch.

SG
Haven’t I already? Go ahead. I won’t sue, I promise. (waits but nothing happens). Chicken.

BM screams, swings wildly, misses SG — who adroitly ducks — and instead hits the phone. BM HOWLS with rage and pain. SG stands to the side with an amused look on his face, then sits down and takes his other shoe off so he can pick at his other foot.

BM
Why did you do that?

SG (looking up)
I promised I wouldn’t sue – not that I’d stand there and let you hit me.

BM (rubbing hand)
What is wrong with you?

SG
How much time do you have? Speaking of which, shouldn’t you be making a call?

BM
Sh*t!

BM starts to pick up the phone, thinks better of it, fishes a kleenex out of his pocket and uses it to gingerly pick up the receiver and hold it about a foot away from his ear. He uses his other hand to hit the disconnect lever several times, then hangs up and turns back to SG, who’s digging at his big toe in earnest.

BM
It doesn’t work

SG 

(spitting out a nail fragment) Never has.

BM

(sitting down heavily) All this time. Wasted. I probably lost my job…

SG
It’s all a house of cards, isn’t it?

BM (pissed again)

What’s your deal? You think you’re enlightened? You’re laughing at the rest of us because you know everything? Is that it? Do you think you’re God?

SG (smiling)

Nope

(puts his shoes back on)

Just a guy who likes to watch people hit phones… And drinking, I like to drink.

BM (stands with sad resignation)
I think I could use one myself. (looks down at SG) I assume I’m buying?

SG (getting up)

That was the plan.

BM
Why didn’t you just ask me for the money.

SG
Would you have given it to me?

BM
I was going to if you would’ve let me use the phone.

SG
Nope. When you figured out the phone didn’t work you would’ve come running after me… I don’t run so well anymore.

BM (looking him over)
I guess not. Wouldn’t it just be easier to lay around with a cup and look miserable?

SG
I’m not a bum. I enjoy my work. I used to be in customer service for the cable company but this is much more satisfying. Plus, laying around asking for money can be dangerous. (looks around) There’s a lot of weirdos in this neighborhood.

BM (picks up briefcase and walks with SG)
So I noticed…