Wednesday, March 30, 2016

1623 The 411 on Phone Books

It was a Friday.  It’s always windy on Fridays.  That’s so the forces of nature can assert their dominance and scatter recyclables far and wide and send you scurrying to pick everyone else’s stuff that’s blown into your yard as everyone else scurries to pick up your stuff from theirs.

Friday is recycling day.  The war lords of collection require you to have your bins curbside by 10 pm Thursday.  Then they come and pick it up. Eighteen hours later. Why do they require early placement?  Because they can.  They are, after all, war lords.

So this particular Friday at around 4 in the afternoon, we spot a piece of uncollected something at the garage door.  Mutter, mutter. Grouse, grouse.

But wait. When we go to pick it up, it’s not loose, flown-in trash.  It’s a phone book.

A phone book!  How quaint.

From Verizon, even.  Not one of those tiny wannabes.

Remember when a phone book had weight and heft?  Mostly in big cities… but also in the boonies, occasionally.  

Early radio disc jockeys of rock ‘n’ roll would pound on them to up the sense of rhythm while the songs played.  Carnival strongmen would rip them in two as people oohed and ahhed about their stupendous feats.  Cops would use them to “interview” criminals while leaving fewer visible bruises and scars than the previously favored pistol whipping and billy clubs.

And -- think of it! -- you could look up a phone number.

Well, today’s phone book is anemic.  And his has more omissions than Bernie Madoff’s tax return or a You Tube sex tape.

And its geography is far wider than its distribution.

It’s a yellow pages and “business directory” all in one.  And eight of them stacked would not equal the size of a Chicago residential phone book.

Attention strong men:  here’s a book for your beginning students to rip in half.  

What’s missing?  It’s easier and faster to tell you what’s there.

Every ambulance chasing lawyer from here to eternity.
Every dentist.
Every real estate agent.
Shopping malls that require six hours on the road per round trip.

But among the missing are most of the area’s restaurants.  And if nothing else, we have places to eat.  There’s a large self- important university down the road.  Not listed.

There are eight or nine supermarkets.  None listed.

There are seven local TV channels. Three of them not listed.  But the one almost no one can receive is there in case there’s a good wind blowing your way for a few minutes one day.

A bunch of funeral parlors, but not all of them.

So who uses phone books?  Old people.  What do old people need?  LARGE TYPE. What they get is tiny.  Saves paper, don-cha know.  Good for the environment.

It’s a whole new world for people who want to look up numbers.

Consumer tip:  don’t pay extra for an unlisted number.  Those free internet sites hide most numbers so that users can pay to look at your “full profile” which includes a phone number you no longer have from 25 years ago, a bad debt someone with your same name has and a list of relatives you never heard of.

You do not need to know whether the guy across town has a criminal record, a court history, tax problems, bankruptcies, relatives in distant places, etc.  Just the phone number, ma’am to paraphrase Sgt. Friday.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2016

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