Remember phone booths? Actually, depending on your age, maybe you don't: they were small box-like chambers made of glass and metal (or, even further back, wood) with a folding door. They had telephones inside that you used by depositing coins. There are still a few public pay phones around, but phone booths have largely disappeared.
I was thinking about this the other day, as I was stuck listening to one side of a deeply personal phone conversation about some very messy family issues* that, not very long ago, anyone with reasonable sense and dignity would have been much too embarrassed to conduct in a public place. (Side note: believe it or not, some people still don't have cell phones.)
The great thing about phone booths was that they enabled a modicum of privacy in public environments, so you didn't have to conduct your discussion of last night's booty call* or your most recent visit to your therapist* in full earshot of everyone around you.
So I humbly suggest: doesn't this seem like the perfect time to bring back phone booths? They don't even need to have phones in them, since everyone is already carrying a phone, so that would make them cheaper to build and install. Say you're walking down Boylston Street and your mother calls to ask how your pre-trial hearing* went. You could say, "Hold on a sec, Ma, I'm gonna step into this phone booth so I can tell you about it IN PRIVATE."
But of course, not everyone would be naturally inclined to do this, since it seems that many people have forgotten what "in private" means. Then how would people be encouraged to actually make use of them? I have an idea for that too: the phone companies could inhibit phone signals in most areas, but make them really strong inside the phone booths, making them the best spots to use cell phones.
But then we'd probably have to deal with people getting into fights over them.
And of course, this wouldn't solve the issue of having to listen to people have conversations while on the subway, either. Should the T enclose a couple of seats in each subway car?
(*All the examples I've cited above are actual, real conversations I have overheard in public places, including subway trains.)