I have joined an exclusive club just by virtue of having lived long enough. No, Petunia, it’s not the Colonoscopy Club. Okay, it is, but that’s not what I was talking about. No, it’s not the Better Check Your Drawers After You Sneeze Club. All right, I’m in that one too, but I meant something else. No no no, not the I have No Idea Where I Was Headed At The Beginning Of This Sentence Club, although, yes, I am a member. Where was I? Who are you? Shut up.
Phone book. I am in the I Am In The Phone Book Club. Someone just asked me the other day what my address was, and I dashed off that breezy response from yesteryear–“I’m in the book.” The person querying had no idea what book I meant. And these days, that doesn’t make her the stupid one. It no longer occurs to anyone to look up an address in the phone book. A long time ago, we had a fat phone book containing the white and yellow pages. Your mommy would put it on your chair so you could reach your strained peas. Then we got a fat white pages, and the yellow pages, which were even fatter, got their own book. Then the yellow pages whelped and three tubby tomes thunked onto the front porch every fall. It was getting unruly. But just when it seemed we’d have to reinforce the floor under the phone table, the books started to shrivel up. Our most recent white pages is so thin we use it to shim up the table leg. A guy in his deathbed could karate-chop it in two. Next year, we’ll be skipping it across the pond. It’s a tiny slice of America, it is, and I’m in it.
This makes the phone book not only a relic, but a reliable snapshot of a certain demographic. It’s a demographic I’m proud to belong to, if only because shame is so pointless.
Another thing that’s changed is that people call each other up now just to find out where they are. We used to know exactly where someone was when we dialed her number. [Dialed? Look it up, Petunia, I don’t have all day.] When I called my friend, I knew she was lying on her bed, admiring her toenail polish and languidly twirling the cord on her Princess Phone. My parents were not so indulgent as to provide me with a bedroom phone, so I was in the kitchen with the phone cord bent around the corner, leaning up against the boomerang-spangled Formica countertop as far away from my parents’ ears in the living room as I could stretch the cord. GPS, hell. We could pinpoint each other’s locations within microns.
So this is The Book, this thing I’m dangling here between my thumb and forefinger, and I’m in it. If you want to know where I live and what my phone number is, this is where you might look. It’s also a good place to locate your market, if you happen to have a lot of carbon paper or Jumbo Diapers to unload.