Monday, January 21, 2013

1125 Near Death of a Dinosaur

1125 Near Death of a Dinosaur

The new phone book has arrived.  The official, baby bell edition, not one of the 234 imitators trying to compete for a shrinking ad dollar as printed phone books go the way of printed newspapers.

The arrival once was a cause for celebration.   Admit it:  when it arrived each year, you checked to see if you were correctly listed.  You looked up friends.  You sunk your teeth into the Yellow Pages, once the second most important reference book in your library... after the unabridged dictionary.

In the five boroughs of New York, the dropping of the books in front of your apartment door sounded like a series of gunshots.  The books were heavy.  Crack! Crack! Crack!   In the suburbs they made a satisfying thump as someone heaved them into your driveway.

Even in rural America, you could hear the books drop.

Not anymore.

Phone books?  Phone pamphlets is more like it.

No residential listings.  Just white page business phones and yellow page ads for lawyers and pizza.

The phone company tells you if you want to look up a number, go to their website.  Okay.  When you go there, it asks you to choose a state.  Okay.  When you go there it asks you to choose a place.

If you place isn't listed, you’re out of luck.  You can, for now, get a free copy of the residential directory by calling and begging and threatening.

But wait, you’re saying now: there are all kinds of websites that give you phone numbers.  Yes, but gradually, they’re moving behind their own paywalls.  Even the once-excellent MSN White Pages has scarcely any free lookups left.

Google dropped its pretty good phone search function years ago.

So now, it’s MSN, Spokeo, and three dozen other pay-per-view sites.  Expensive.  Often inaccurate or outdated.

There is an advantage.  Everyone has an unlisted phone number without paying the customary fee for it.  But even that has a downside.  Robocalls are made by dialing random numbers.   So Senator Klutz can still reach out and touch you.

Current conventional scientific wisdom has it that common birds are the descendents of dinosaurs.  Perhaps so.  And as Whateversaurus Rex has shrunk into a pigeon, so have the Great Phonebooks of the past have shrunk into anemic booklets.

You know what happens to you when you stand beneath a perched pigeon at exactly the wrong time, right?

Well, don’t stand under the new phonebook, either.  You never know.

Shrapnel:

--Today is inauguration day.  It also is Martin Luther King Jr. day.  We note with sadness as we do each year at this time that people have still not gotten his message but merrily and in tones of great authority co opt his image and memory for their own agendas.

--Anyone else bothered by Ford’s current slogan “Go Further?”  It’s go farther, people.  Farthermore, it’s hard on the ears.

--So a former fast peddler is now a back peddler.  Lance Armstrong “tells all” about his doping to Oprah in efforts to resurrect his image.  Move over, OJ and all the steroid-shamed professional athletes, make room for your fellow phony, Mr. Bicycle and save some room for the guy with the fake girlfriend while you’re at it.

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them.
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2013

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