Street furniture. We pass by it daily, but barely see it. Practical infrastructure designed to facilitate travel, communication, and safety, such objects include directional signs, mail boxes, phone booths, benches, bollards, street lamps, sculptures, fire hydrants and emergency call systems. All eminently useful, they tend to noticed mostly by their absence when we need them.
Until a few years ago, my first morning act was to walk down the street with a few coins and get the newspaper from a vending box or kiosk half a block away. If for some reason the box was out of order, there were two other locations nearby. As dawn approached one day, I arrived at the spot where my preferred box was chained to a utility pole. It was missing. A short walk revealed that the others were gone as well. At first I suspected vandalism. Further inquiry, however, revealed something much worse. On calling the offices of the Hartford Courant, which proudly trumpets itself as “America’s oldest continuously published newspaper,” I learned that cold economics had dictated the demise of street corner vending. Today, one is more likely to find a hitching post for horses in a Connecticut town (still rarely seen at roadside) than a news box.