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“INFORMATION, PLEASE”

Posted by on January 16, 2015

I love stories that cast long shadows and are cherished in the arms of memory.

This is another of those I noticed in passing and told myself:  “You ever find that again, save it and share it.”

Coffee - Phones6Well, I did.  And I am.  The original writer is, I think, older than me.  I don’t remember asking as a little kid for ‘Information’.  But I remember often poking my finger into the “0” hole and dragging that rotary dial all the way around to the metal stop and letting it go ‘ticka-ticka-ticka’ back around and then hearing the neatest feminine voice say

“Operator.”

There were occasional times when I’d be alone in the house – preplanned and appropriately briefed – when I’d call “0” just to hear her voice.  Having done that, everything was okay again in Kid World.

Enjoy the story.

“INFORMATION, PLEASE”

  When I was quite young, my father had one of the first telephones in our neighborhood. I remember well the polished old case fastened to the wall. The shiny receiver hung on the side of the box. I was too little to reach the telephone, but used to listen with fascination when my mother used to talk to it.

Coffee - Phones4

  Then I discovered that somewhere inside the wonderful device lived an amazing person – her name was Information Please, and there was nothing she did not know. Information Please could supply anybody’s number and the correct time.

  My first personal experience with this genie-in-the-bottle came one day while my mother was visiting a neighbor. Amusing myself at the tool bench in the basement, I whacked my finger with a hammer. The pain was terrible, but there didn’t seem to be any reason in crying because there was no one home to give sympathy. I walked around the house sucking my throbbing finger, finally arriving at the stairway…the telephone! Quickly I ran for the footstool in the parlor and dragged it to the landing. Climbing up I unhooked the receiver in the parlor and held it to my ear.

  “Information Please,” I said into the mouthpiece just above my head.

  A click or two and a small clear voice spoke into my ear: “Information.”

  “I hurt my finger. . .” I wailed into the phone. The tears came readily enough now that I had an audience.

  “Isn’t your mother home?” came the question.

  “Nobody’s home but me.” I blubbered.

  “Are you bleeding?”

  “No,” I replied. “I hit my finger with the hammer and it hurts.”

  “Can you open your icebox?” she asked. I said I could. “Then chip off a little piece of ice and hold it to your finger.”

Coffee - Phones3  After that I called Information Please for everything. I asked her for help with my geography and she told me where Philadelphia was. She helped me with my math, and she told me my pet chipmunk I had caught in the park just the day before would eat fruits and nuts.

  And there was the time that Petey, our pet canary died. I called Information Please and told her the sad story. She listened, then said the usual things grown-ups say to soothe a child. But I was unconsoled. Why is it that birds should sing so beautifully and bring joy to all families, only to end up as a heap of feathers, feet-up on the bottom of a cage?

  She must have sensed my deep concern, for she said quietly, “Paul, always remember that there are other worlds to sing in.” Somehow I felt better.

  Another day I was on the telephone: “Information Please.”

  “Information,” said the now familiar voice.

  “How do you spell fix?” I asked.

   All this took place in a small town in the Pacific Northwest. Then when I was 9 years old, we moved across the country to Boston. I missed my friend very much. Information Please belonged in that old wooden box back home, and I somehow never thought of trying the tall, shiny new phone that sat on the hall table.

  Yet as I grew into my teens, the memories of those childhood conversations never really left me; often in moments of doubt and perplexity, I would recall the serene sense of security I had then. I appreciated now how patient, understanding, and kind she was to have spent her time on a little boy.

Coffee - Phones7  A few years later, on my way west to college, my plane put down in Seattle. I had about half an hour or so between plane, and I spent 15 minutes or so on the phone with my sister, who lived there now. Then without thinking what I was doing, I dialed my hometown operator and said, “Information Please.”

  Miraculously, I heard again the small, clear voice I knew so well, “Information.” I hadn’t planned this but I heard myself saying, “Could you tell me please how to spell fix?”

  There was a long pause. Then came the soft spoken answer, “I guess that your finger must have healed by now.

  I laughed, “So it’s really still you,” I said. “I wonder if you have any idea how much you meant to me during that time.

  “I wonder, she said, “if you know how much your calls meant to me. I never had any children, and I used to look forward to your calls.

  I told her how often I had thought of her over the years and I asked if I could call her again when I came back to visit my sister.

  “Please do, just ask for Sally.”

  Just three months later I was back in Seattle. A different voice answered Information and I asked for Sally.

  “Are you a friend?”

  “Yes, a very old friend.”  I told her my name.

  “Then I’m sorry to have to tell you. Sally has been working part-time the last few years because she was sick. She died five weeks ago.” But before I could hang up she said, “Wait a minute. Did you say your name was Paul?”

  “Yes.”

  “Well, Sally left a message for you. She wrote it down. Here it is. I’ll read it: ‘Tell him I still say there are other worlds to sing in. He’ll know what I mean.'”

  I thanked her and hung up. I did know what Sally meant.

original author unknown

_______

It’s okay to dab a tear and clear your throat.  Technology is advancing at laser speed, yet there has never been an improvement made on the comforting support and presence of a real, living person.

Coffee - phones1When next you catch yourself nose-deep in the nearest nifty device, remember Sally.  It just might make you turn the nifty device off, stow it, and look around you.  There might be a biped nearby with whom you can strike up a conversation.

Who knows?  You might even make a new friend.

© D. Dean Boone, January 2015

 

3 Responses to “INFORMATION, PLEASE”

  1. Jerry and Marilyn Houlden

    I love this story, Dan. We never know when we may touch another’s life in what we do or say. Blessings to you, Friend.

  2. Julie Sharp

    Beautiful. Thank you for being such a faithful, unconditional, persistent messenger for Christ! I appreciate YOU!

  3. Jack Newlon

    This is a story that could have happened to You, Dan. I know you well enough that you could have experienced that story.
    Love ya, Jack

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