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Swarm 7: John "Chuck" Erreca Roadside Rest Area (formerly Panoche Roadside Rest Area), 0.7 miles North of Fresno County Line, I-5, California (-120.78334 36.86421).

Sunday November 14th through Saturday November 19th.

Picture of payphone

This is not a great location. It's a goddamned rest area. But I am "okay" with that. I figured it was Phoneswarm material because I walked by and the center phone (of three) started ringing.

"Did you call me?"
"No, actually, this is a payphone. I suspect the party you are trying to reach was calling you awhile ago and has already continued north on I-5. Does this sound like anyone you know?"
"Wuh ... " [click]

You are probably wondering if this Roadside Rest Area offers restrooms, water, picnic tables, handicapped access, RV sanitation, and vending machines. The answer is a lustily-yelled "yes!"

The ringer on this phone is a little swamped by all the road noise. Good luck. The center photo is a decaying/inoperative push-button rest area/overnight accomodation indicator ("Tourest").

Sunday, November 13th, 2005.

Hey, I get the beep thing on this number too after seven rings. Or did the number not change?

You will hear that on a lot of payphones. Apparently it's to keep people from dialing a number and just letting it ring forever. Back in the day, I seem to remember it was 30 or 40 rings and then it'd switch to the operator: "If you'd like to make a call ..." Now it's 7-10 rings.

The first time I called, around 7pm central US time, it rang about eight times, then I got an annoying fax-machinish noise. I wasn't about to give up. The second time I called, it was busy.

The third time, someone picked up after a few rings. They sounded very quiet and far away. I couldn't understand them with the quietness and his accent (sounded like he was Asian?). Wasn't a very productive conversation, but I'll try again when I have time.

One thing I've noticed about the pay phones is that after you call and reach the modem thing, you have to wait ten or twenty seconds before you can call again. I get a busy signal between this. And as I was typing that, I got through. Luckily, I left my microphone on, Audacity recording, and my phone on speakerphone, so I recorded the conversation. It actually scared me a lot. He said stuff about drugs and me being female because of my high voice. Twenty bucks says he's still waiting there by the phone for me to call back. Listen and behold - and be afraid. If you want, I can post a text transcript for our dial-up friends. Despite the fact that my heart is beating 140 miles per hour in fear, that was pretty fun. I'll definitely be trying it again.

Called at 9:57PST and busy (had to tear my eyes away from the riveting Category 7 show on CBS to do it. The recorded call above was brilliant.


Monday, November 14th, 2005.

Not sure if it had anything to do with the time, but I called at 6am ET and it didn't even ring...went straight to a dial-tone...followed by fax noises.

i called at about 5pm ET and someone quite distinctly picked it up after about 5 rings, fumbled around for a minute, then hung up.

hey, do you have a larger or higher resolution version of the center image?

I am guessing you want to read all of the irresistibly inviting text on the non-functional board. Here it is.

So is it older than 1983? Would you, in 1989, say, mention that something was proposed in 1983? I get the impression it was some half-baked "system" that helped no one. Bonus points for any more information about this company.

7:33 - weird noises -- beeping sound
7:34 - different beeping noises, then a recording of some weird lady not speaking English, I don't know what language.
7:36 - Busy signal. Then I got, "We're sorry all circuits are busy now."
7:40 - Finally, someone answered. The conversation didn't last long though.
7 rings, answer, a guy said something I could not understand, then:
Me: Hello? Hello? Hello?
Him: -unrecognizable speech-
Me: Can you speak English?
Him: I don't know
Me: You don't know?
Him: -click-
Me: No, don't hang up!

My sister tried again, a few minutes later, I'm pretty sure it was a different guy, since the one I talked to didn't sound Spanish and he kinda spoke English, from what I could tell. Anyhow.

She calls; a Spanish sounding guy picks up, and asks what time it is (in Spanish).
Her: -excited- Oh oh! 7:44!
Him: El publico.

Her: Wha'?
Him: El publico!
Her: Ohh, that's ok!
Him: -says a few Spanish words, then hangs up-
7:48 - A woman answered.
Me: Hello, hello?
Her: Hello. Hello.
And then she hung up.

We decided to try again, one last time, but no one picked up.

This text was all garbled, but I think everything is in order now. Though when garbled it added to the verisimilitude.

Tuesday, November 15th, 2005.

Random: Ukraine payphone graffiti.

the PETAREA PET AREA is obviously for homemade pets only

Actually, it's this tiny little area, most of it is there in the photo. It cracked me up. It reminded me of the micro-managing of large cities. Macau has similar areas, but even smaller. Smaller than a kiddie pool, labelled "WC" with a graphic of a dog. Right outside humongous apartment complexes.

Tried at 5:52AM local time. Went straight to the beepy noises. Tried yesterday around the same time, and first it was busy, then it was busy again, and then there was no answer at all (I call from Japan, so I try to hang up before the beeps, so I don't get stuck with the bill Only 7yen, but still.) Got my one pick-up (even though it was the "machine") for this week, so I'm out. I'll try again in next week's phoneswarm. :D

Tried at 8:42pm est. Rang and rang, got no answer... damnit. Well, I'll try again later.

I called 8:35 pacific time and immediately after the first ring, a girl picked up.

Girl 1: Hello?
Me: Hi what's going on?
Girl 1: Not a lot, how bout you?
Me: Just calling to see who would pick up. I got this number from a website.
Girl 1: This is just a rest stop.
Me: I know. (explained website). What's it like there?
Girl 1: That's crazy! There's just a lot of truckers and people sleeping. Here! Talk to someone else.
Boy: Hello?
Me: Hi. How are you?
Guy: Good, how are you?
Me: I'm great, thanks. So you guys are near Fresno?
Guy: Yeah, I think so. (sounds confused)
Me: (explains where i got the number from) I'm calling from Austin, Texas. Where are you headed?
Guy: You're in Austin? (laughs) So I can't even see you.
Me: (Laughs) Nope.
Guy: That's f'n nuts! Here, you want to talk to someone else?
Me: Sure!
Guy: Okay. (pause)
Girl 2: Hi?
Me: Hello! I'm calling from Austin, how are you?
Girl: That's really far away! I'm good. How are you?
Me: I'm great. Where are you guess driving from?
Girl 2: I'm from (something) county, way up north. Are you really in Austin?
Me: Yup. Where are you headed to?
Girl 2: I don't know some little town. (asks others) I don't kow, somewhere south of Fresno.
Me: That's cool, well I'll let you guys do that, thanks for taking to me. Have a safe trip!
Girl 2: Thanks! Take care! Me: You too! Bye!
Girl 2: Bye!

The phone was pretty fuzzy, but they were really nice. They sounded to be fairly young, in their 20's. They seemed amazed that I was calling. I wanted to ask them a million questions but didn't want to seem creepy or anything. This was the first call I've made. I just came across this site tonight. I'm really excited to try again next week.

I tried Phoneswarm all last week, but no one ever picked up the phone. Now it's new week, new number and I get someone on my first call (8:30 pm (Mountain Time) tonight). A nice woman who was confused on why I was calling. I just wanted to see if she was seeing the same gorgous full moon in California that I was in Colorado. Yes she was. She asked if I knew where I was calling. I said "South of Fresno?" She said that was kind of right..

My Blog

Wednesday, November 16th, 2005.

I called but all i got was the noise of a fax machine, those bastards!


Dude, how about some international country codes on them thar numbers? (i'll give it a try just a soon as I figure out how to dial Fresno USA from Coventry UK...;-)


Result, dial: 00 1 209xxxxxxx

Random phone things: This American Life
The New Atlantis

I called, a man answered. I asked if the toilets were working. He said they seemed to be. I inquired if he had actually used one, he said he had. He then asked if this is the way we check them. I told him this is the way I check them, if I don't have truck in the area. I thanked him for his assistance.


I answered the phone call from a pay phone, I was waiting for a ferry at the docks in Seattle late one night. The pay phone rang, I answered it. The older man on the other line spoke really quick, thinking I was someone else.
Man-Hey, do you have my money yet?
Me-I'm sorry, I don..(he cut me off in midsentance)
Man-What! If you don't get me my money I am gonna...(I cut him off)
Me-Just who the hell are you looking for? It's not me!
Man-Oh. Is a lady there, she's...
Ya' know what, nevermind.
How would you like to make some money, lady I could show you some fine streets.
Me-No, not probable by any means of consideration.
Man-Awww, c'mon, I bet I could talk you into it.
Me-No thanks. Bye.
At that point I hung up the phone and looked around the underpass. The payphone was on a second story. Just below it the streets split off into three levels. My heart was racing. I was especting to find a looming figure watching the payphone from the shadows, cell phone in hand. I couldn't find anyone. Not even a probable canidate for his wayward prostitute. I went back into the lobby for the ferry terminal and I waited for my boat. I nearly forget what had just happend when the phone rang again.

Wow, how could you resist, with the easygoing financial arrangement he seems to have with his current client?

I am in Chicago, I called the number at 2:15p.m. it rang about 6 or 7 times than the beeping started. I hung up and called back about 2:40p.m. it rang twice and a man picked up, he a little confused when he said hello. I said hi and asked him his name than he hung up. My brother and I are starting a podcast and I am going to try and get some conversations recorded so everyone can hear a call. I will definitely post when we get a call recorded with the name of my podcast so you can listen.

Sounds good. Or, will sound good.

I'm in San Diego, CA. On my 5th try, a guy picks up (sounds middle aged)
Me-Hi! How's it going?
Him-Ummm, this is a payphone...i just picked it up.
Me-It was on phoneswarm, this cool website thing...

just called its nov 16 at 947pm eastern time its been busy for 5 mins. i called ten times before that and just the beeping sound no answer??

That's how it goes. Someone made a call at the payphone, then they hung up and went to their car. They're not expecting a call. You call, maybe someone answers.

Thursday, November 17th, 2005.

nothing but a fax machine... who has a fax hooked up to a payphone ?

As has been mentioned before, that is a modem tone. Instead of letting you ring the payphone forever, it cuts out to the tone.

Called twice Nov 17, around 1AM Pacific. Rang once, dial tone, then "fax" tones.

I called 9:53 AM eastern and got nothing, just faint distortion.

i called at noon eastern standard time (9am local) and after 6 rings a guy answered. I asked him how california was and he said it was good. He asked if I was calling random numbers asking how california was and I explained the site. we talked about the weather and how it was loud there so he was surprised anyone answered at all. He asked how many times i had called, and i said a few but this is the first time someone answered. he said he was driving a truck and was on break, so i let him go. It was pretty cool, and my coworkers were impressed.


I called 3 times on Wed. First one was busy, 2nd was 7 rings and then fax tones. The third time was the charm. I spoke to a hitch-hiker going to Santa Cruz for about 5 mins. He couldn't believe I had called him from MO.

Howdy! Probably by just saying "howdy" at the beginning, I'm already conjuring up midwestern stereotypes, but I couldn't resist. I'm in Iowa; just found your site by accident while doing a final revisit to the Mojave Phone Booth site. I first found The Booth in '99 or maybe 2000, and by the time I graduated college and had an excuse to travel out west, the booth had been removed.

All that superfluous information to say, I was trying to find the longitude/lattitude of the FORMER booth location, because next week I'm going to be driving out to southern CA from Iowa, and I'd like to at least pay a short visit to the ex-booth site. And that quest for the coordinates led me to your site somehow.

I won't be far enough north to answer your number in Fresno, but if you end up switching locations for your phoneswarm in the next week, could I suggest something along highway 40 down south, or perhaps HW 54 (the small highway that cuts NE up through the corner of TX and OK)? If I get lucky and you happen to phoneswarm a number out in the southwest, I could field calls for 10 minutes and have a blast.

Well, that's all I wanted to say - you've got a really interesting site, and here's to hoping that you're getting an occasional phonesitter on the other end, fielding inbound calls and keeping it fun.

I have been on HW 54. At night. It's very eerie. I didn't grab any numbers while I was out there. And even if I had, I don't get the impression that the phones are ringing off the hook. Last week, yeah, because there were mentions of Phoneswarm in digg.com and metafilter.com, and those tend to create huge amounts of traffic. But it dies out fast, it's a site du jour sort of thing. If you sat around for an hour, then, maybe a caller or two.

I called about 6:00pm Central time and got no anwswer. I wonder why anybody might not be there at a rest stop at 4:00pm Pacific. Will call later, I guess.

Alright, I called the phone booth at the rest stop in Cali just know and I got an answer! I couldn't believe it, it was my first try after finding the site 10 minutes ago. Well, I'm guessing it was a trucker on the other end, but he sounded like the big brother off of Step By Step, it was crazy. I talked to him for a bit and he toldme he was just resting (naturally) and on a trip to Kansas City! At first, he asked me if I knew where I was calling to which I replied 'California? Right? This should be the middle phone booth at that rest stop' and he almost freaked while letting out a huge 'WHOA' and then asking me to tell him what he looked like. He couldn't believe a random college freshman from Lincoln, Nebraska had just to have a little chat.


Lincoln, Nebraska

Tried to call, first itme ever, too. No one answered, of course. I got some minutes on Gizmo, so I will be recording the conversation if I get anyone.

Friday, November 18th, 2005.

Dialed at 1:04AM CST from Texas. Rang once, then I heard a scratchy dial tone for around 5 seconds, then modem-like squeals. Dont tell me I timed my call to coincide just after someone elses. God we're losers. ;)

Has anyone tried to actually connect with a modem yet? I sure would love to know what they use it for.

My theory is that it's hooked up to nothing. That it's not actually a modem modem, it's just something that sounds like a modem. Also, hello Boing Boing. Hello.

Look, let me set the record straight. Almost all payphones have a modem circuit built into them for diagnostic purposes. IT IS NOT A FAX, or any other Gizmo. It is a modem that is set to pick up on a certain number of rings. Unless you have the appropriate software / password, there is nothing you can do but hang up and call back.


Thank you, Whew.

Called 4 times between 12:15p and 12:25p CT. No answer - just the payphone talking its language after 7-8 rings.

Very cool idea. I myself am a phone tech. So i'm into anything that involves phones.

Now I'm intrigued about the modem. Has anybody actually attempted to hack into the payphone. What a great combination of hacking and phreaking. d00d!!!

I would bet you ten bucks 2600 has already covered it, if there is anything to cover. U k-rad k00l d00d, u.

Friday the 17th, 3:33 pm Pacific: busy signal.

Friday the 17th, 7:30pm & 7:55pm EST (GMT - 5): Busy both times. Maybe taken off the hook by attendant?


Friday Nov. 18th - called and a man with an accent answered.
me: "hello, is this a payphone?"
incomprehensible mumbling
him: "who this?"
incomprehensible mumbling...
ah, my first time doing this was a bust =P

Friday the 1th at 6:21 Pacific time- I got a guy with a strange accent pick up, his name was Jose, and he didn't seem particularly thrilled to talk to me, he hung up after I said "Hey Jose, how's it going man? Taking a break from a long drive?"

Again, the question must be asked ... why pick up the phone if you're not in talkative mood? I am getting ready to ask it. Here goes. "Why pick up the phone if you're not in talkative mood?"

I called twice at 11:00 and 11:10 pm ET on Friday Nov. 18 (don't judge me). No answer either time. Most people would be discouraged by their lack of conversation...not me, I continue to call at the WORST POSSIBLE TIMES, all along never talking to anyone ever.

Well, next week it will be a phone where there are people walking by it twenty-four hours a day.

Nah, I just made that up.

I called just a few minutes ago (147am in NJ on Saturday AM/Friday PM) and told the lady who answered that I was calling from Tourest and wanted to know if she found our board, over to her right, helpful. She informed me that it was not working. I assured her that we'd have a technician out to her location within 30 minutes, or her rest stop visit would be free. She failed to see the humor in that and told me that she was on her way to Sheboyban and that this rest stop was filthy and that a trucker harrassed her on her way to said filthy restroom. I told her to get his tag number and the technician would deal with him as well. She laughed, and so did I.


Saturday, November 19th, 2005.

phoned @ 4:05pm, the guy at the payphone said he was from LA going to washington...i told him about phoneswarm, and he thought that was cool,he also liked it that i was phoning from Edmonton Alberta (GO OILERS GO)

Sunday, November 20th, 2005. An extra day!

I just got someone, to my suprise. Not only am I a little tipsy, but I had no idea I would get an answer. Total conversation:

Answer (an arab sounding guy):"Hello? you have wrong number."
Me: Hello? Is this a rest stop?
Guy: No.
Me: Oh. I have wrong number? What state are you in?
Guy: California.
Me: I'm in Wisconsin. What's the weather like there?

:( I got a non-talkive one...

called at 615pm on Nov. 20. same old fax tone. we need to use that phone in times square witht the webcam.. that would be awesome. please, please, please, please!

Gave it a try at 12:39 AM, EST. No luck. I suppose the place is more or less deserted by then. I doubt I'll be calling back any earlier because of phone charges. Good luck to everyone else!