Things Are Going To Start Happening To Me Now.

There it was, at the end of the driveway—a shapeless pale green mass. I was hesitant at first but then I noticed there were similar masses at the end of every driveway up and down our street. I approached it carefully, and as I got closer I could see it was a plastic bag, and inside the bag was…a phone book. It was just the yellow pages, for local businesses—I don’t think they publish a residential phone book anymore, or, if they do, it goes exclusively to telemarketers who, when I ask how they got my number, tell me it was dialed at random and, when I ask, “Okay, how’d you get my name then?” hang up on me, but that’s another story.

I can’t remember the last time we got an actual phone book. Maybe we got one last year around this same time and I just can’t remember it because, well, that was a year ago, and I immediately put it in the recycling bin because that’s all it was good for, but I don’t think so. I don’t think we got one the year before that, or even the year before that, or, if we did, I can’t remember it because, well, that was three years ago and the recycling bin’s been emptied a few dozen times since then.

There’s something really annoying about getting a phone book these days. I’m old enough to remember when the yellow pages were advertised with “let your fingers do the walking” even though you were eventually going to have to use your feet eventually, and walking on your fingers is just asking for broken fingers. And also there seemed to be something deeply recursive about advertising a big book of advertising that was given away free anyway. Maybe that’s why even before the internet became the most widespread and popular way to find information, including phone numbers, phone books became a prop for tough guys who’d show their strength by tearing one in half. And I’m pretty sure someone’s already made a joke about how hard it is to tear the internet in half but you don’t have to be that strong to destroy a laptop or even a tablet, but you show me someone who can tear a warehouse full of servers in half and I’m not going to stick around because I’m sure that monster will destroy us all. I’m also old enough to remember phone booths and, for that matter, when a call was just ten cents, and I remember the time my friends and I looked up the number for a pizza place and found two that were close by, so we picked one, called in a pickup order, and then went to the wrong one because we didn’t have Google Street View to check and see where we were going before we went there.

I can’t even imagine why I’d use the phone book now—and I say this as someone who still reads, and even prefers, regular printed books, since there’s something baffling about trying to look up, say, gardening equipment, only to find “See: Plants”. I see a lot of plants which is why I want the gardening equipment.

On the other hand there is something to be said for the discrete, even private value of the phone book. It’s not keeping tabs on what tabs I have open or recording my browsing history. It’s not going to start throwing targeted ads at me based on the page where I happened to stop. If I want something embarrassingly personal like a shoe tree or a place that sells ceramic aardvarks and takes cash only I can probably find it in the phone book—if I can just figure out where to look.

Facebook Comments


  1. Allison

    As soon as I read the title of your post, I knew it was going to be about phone books – or at least I hope. Excellent job of invoking one of the greatest movies of our time.
    Allison recently posted…IAQMy Profile

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      “The Jerk” comes to me every time I see a phone book. Perhaps the funniest story, though, is one my sister-in-law told years ago about when she was working in an office and a guy came by delivering phone books.
      “The new phone books are here! The new phone books are here!” he said. And sister-in-law said, “Things are going to start happening to me now!”
      The guy almost broke down crying and said, “You’re the first person on my entire route who’s gotten that reference.”

  2. Writer of Words, etc

    What did happen to the phone books? I bet my mom still has one kicking around somewhere… 🙂

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Apparently they’re still around in some places. I remember when the library where I worked would get phone books from around the country and put them in the reference section. We even got some international phone books which were really fascinating.


    Great post, Chris, and you never, ever phone it in. Chris’s blog is here, Chris’s blog is here!!!
    ANN J KOPLOW recently posted…Day 3304: Any questions?My Profile

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      You never phone it in either, and neither does Steve Martin, which gave me a flashback to this:

      1. ANN J KOPLOW

        Wonderful memory, Chris. Thank you!

        1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

          So many wonderful memories, and I’m glad you took this trip down the memory path with me.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge

%d bloggers like this: