Got Your Number

phone book 0220

This morning I am wondering how we function without phone books. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m not sure how we all manage to “reach out and touch someone” without a handy paper book listing all the phone numbers you might ever need, along with lots you’ll never need.

When I woke up today I remembered that one of our friends had a doctor’s appointment yesterday for an acute pain issue, and I wanted to see if yesterday’s visit helped. I have e-mail addresses for both him and his life partner, but it may be that Lynn is the one with a phone number for them.

Now, they may still have their landline, and I do still have a phone book that grows less and less useful as people convert to unlisted cell phones, but this has caused me to look in a broader light (now that the sun is up) at this entire issue.

It wasn’t that long ago when, if you wanted to call someone, you reached for your handy dandy phone book and looked up their last name. They would be right there on the page, next to a phone number. That almost always worked, except for the couple here in town who listed their home phone under the wife’s unused maiden name, which you then had to stand around trying to remember. And usually had to call someone else who knew them to ask what her name used to be.

But now no one uses a phone book, except me and perhaps my co-worker Gilly. And even if that’s the way we prefer to make calls, it doesn’t work much anymore, because people have gone to cell phones, which rarely make it into the white pages.

At one point there were four phone book companies coming into Pat’s Screen Printing to try to sell us ads in their yellow pages. Now I think we’re down to two, and the CenturyLink book is a thin membrane of its former self with no apparent active sales force. The other book, which once upon a time was locally owned and has now been traded off at least twice to bigger companies, still has a local sales rep, one of the original owners.

And it’s really more because he’s in town and a nice guy that Kara and I buy an ad from him annually than because I think anyone besides me ever reaches for a phone book. For many years I have watched everyone at work who is younger than me just type what they’re looking for into a search bar on the internet — and invariably the number they need pops up. They don’t even need to remember the exact name of the business: they can just type “Gunnison screen printing” and they’ll find their way to a number for Pat’s (970-641-3743, if you need to reach us).

I don’t know how well that works for individuals, because every time I try searching for a person rather than a business I get a stalker-ish offer to purchase a passel of information on whomever I’m searching for. I don’t need to know their history in parking tickets and unpaid bills; I just want to make a phone call in this modern age.

But this must mean I only contact people after they’ve given me a phone number. How do I go about getting hold of them that initial time? I obviously manage it, but I clearly don’t have any system. Say, for instance, I wanted to call my old friend and neighbor of six months ago, Evan. I have no idea what his number is. I know where his house is, and where he works, but it seems like I’d have to go to one of those places and ask him for a phone number before I could call him.

Here is a life goal I sadly am never going to realize: my name is never going to be on a page header in a phone book. I have the same phone number my family has had for not quite 51 years, but once I left CenturyLink and became part of Lynn’s cell phone plan, two things happened: my name and number dropped out of the white pages, and now my 51-year-old number is in Lynn’s name. So even if the number got restored to the white pages, it would probably be under Lynn’s name. I’m never going to be in bold print at the top of a page, and this makes me sadder (in many ways, I suppose) than you could possibly imagine.

Here’s a bigger concern: I realized the other day that I don’t have a lot of good information about my parents. I have their phone numbers, and it turns out I have both numbers — I was in doubt about my stepdad’s, but it’s in my phone — but I can’t tell you without finding my address book, which may still be in a box somewhere in one of three locations, what their house number is, or even the name of their street.

I don’t really know why I was thinking of this, other than I was recalling one time when Mrs. Baril was having some emergency issue, and her husband called their daughter, who was four hours away. Kristi called her local 911, which put her in touch with Gunnison’s 911, and help was summoned fairly quickly.

In my imagination (I don’t know where my sisters would be in this scenario, both of whom probably know our parents’ address and are currently much closer in proximity), if I were dong a version of this, I would be describing their location relative to my nephew’s old elementary school, just down the hill from their house, but I would still be reduced to saying “It’s the house with the picture of Hobbes the tiger (from Calvin and Hobbes) near the door,” because I don’t even have a good count of how many houses on the right they are.

I should probably get address information and put it in my phone, but that brings up an entirely different issue, that of back-up. I have it on all my computers, both at home and work (and needed it for a work computer about a month after acquiring back-up when some tech half a world away completely erased the hard drive on our art computer), but not for my phone.

I should get that, and soon, because if I have to try to remember who all is in my “contacts” list and then probably physically go to each of them and ask for their information again, because I can’t call them because I don’t have their numbers . . . well, it would be enough to make me happy to buy ads in phone books.


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