My wife couldn’t have been more excited when she came busting through the door.

“Look what we got!” she effervesced. “Look what was delivered right to our door!”

She was waving the object so violently in her enthusiasm that I couldn’t get a look at it. Was it a marvel of modern electronics? A fat inheritance check from some long-lost kinsman?

No, my man. It was better than any of those things. The object that my wife clutched in her happy little fingers was a phone book – a by-gum phone book with white pages, yellow pages, the whole works.

So, you can understand why we were doing a happy little dance around the kitchen on that fine Saturday afternoon. The arrival of a new phone book is a marvelous thing; an occasion that calls for celebration. The only thing that was left to be decided was the matter of which of us got to play with it first.

That’s when the marriage began to unravel.

OK, I may have exaggerated the details some, but honestly, only a skosh. The appearance of a new phone book may be more of a quaint blast from the past these days, but there was a time when it was a life-altering event.

Oh, there were discoveries to be made when the new listings hit your doorstep, all right. Maybe that new girl in school would be listed, for one thing. Find that number before any of the other boys did and you could be the first to call the lass and you’d be in like Flynn.

Maybe this time your gym teacher would be listed and let the prank phone calls begin: Hey, buddy. Is your refrigerator running?

The phone book was a useful tool for ferreting out rumors. Everybody said that nice Missus Whipple at the end of the street had chucked her husband to the curb, but was it true? Consult the phone book, fool, and behold the way the “Todd and Charlene Whipple” listing has transformed itself into simply “Charlene Whipple-Snodgrass.”

Back in the day, the phone book was vital to a family’s survival, and how many vicious family arguments began when some idiot failed to put the phone book back in its DESIGNATED SPOT ON THE STOOL BENEATH THE PHONE!

How could you possibly call Sonny’s Pizza and order a three-meat pie, with extra meat, if you didn’t have the yellow pages? How could you call WIGY-106 and request that they dedicate Air Supply’s “I’m All Out Of Love” to Charlene Whipple-Snodgrass if you couldn’t come up with the number? God help you if you need Ron’s Emergency Plumbing Service in the middle of the night and the phone book wasn’t on the stool beneath the phone.

In that family phone book, all the important numbers would be circled heavily in pen. On the cover would be scribbled a variety of REALLY important phone numbers – numbers so crucial to your existence that you couldn’t spare the extra seconds needed to open the book and look for it.

Yellow pages for business, white pages for people. Could it be any simpler than that?

If you were away from home and in a bad way, you desperately needed three things: A phone book, a phone booth and a dime with which to unleash its powers. With those things in hand, brother, the world was yours. Call a cab, call a friend, or call Sylvia’s mother, she seems nice.

Phone books were such prized items in those times, dirty, rotten scoundrels would steal them whenever the opportunity arose. Few tragedies compared to the heartbreak of stumbling into a phone booth, tired, desperate and deflated, only to discover that some wretch had ripped the phone book right off its wire leash.

Phone books then were every bit as important as the web browser and address book on that Samsung Doohickey 9 you carry in your pocket today.

So, when those snazzy new listings appeared on my doorstep the other day, I felt blessed. I picked the thing up and immediately started thumbing through the white pages. What fun! What memories!

But hold the phone, Jim Croce. What is this travesty? The white pages in this particular book don’t appear to list any people at all. Where I expected to find “Whipple-Snodgrass, Charlene,” I instead found “Whiffletree Corporation Inc.” Where I should have spotted my own listing, I found “Lafleur’s Restaraunt” on Main Street. Main Street in what town? Beats me, pal. The phone book doesn’t say. Maybe you need to pay extra for that kind of information, or maybe you’ll just have to turn to the internet after all, and didn’t we know it would come to that in the end?

I got a cheap little thrill out of receiving the phone book, it’s true. But I should have known it wasn’t the real deal, considering the book claims to cover all of Androscoggin and Oxford counties and yet is barely a quarter inch thick. A REAL phone book, even one covering just a couple dinky towns, was big enough to swat flies or serve as a doorstop.

I guess it’s true after all what they say about phone books.

You know. That thing they say. About phone books.

Click. Bzzzzzz…


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