The New Phone Books Are Here! Why Aren't You Excited?

Last Sunday, my husband and I heard a little crash outside our front door, and thinking it was a palm that had fallen, he went out to pick it up. (I keep waiting for him to bring a palm in and fan me with it. But it hasn't happened yet. Nor have the peeled grapes. Still waiting . . .) He came back in a few minutes later with a small white bag in his hand.

"What is it?" he asked. He put it on the counter and we both looked at it.

Eventually I opened the bag and in it was a phone book.

"It's a phone book," I said. We were all slightly taken aback. I didn't know they made phone books anymore. It had been years since I'd even seen one. The last time I picked one up, I held it to about chest-height and dropped it right onto a big spider in my basement. It did a fine job of containing the spider until some unsuspecting family member, curious about why there was a phone book in the middle of the basement floor, picked it up and the spider walked away like Flat Stanley. Spiders are impervious to the powers of the phone book.

But look up a phone number in one? Uh, why? Your Internet down? Even that doesn't happen in our house anymore. There's always something handy that has 3G or magic. Turning paper pages is so last decade. I'm not even sure my kids know how to find something in an alphabetized list. Eventually that and making book covers out of brown paper grocery bags might be skills that humans no longer need to know.

In the time of my childhood, we really did get excited when the new phone books were delivered. That's not just a TV commercial cliche.  The old phone book had doodles and scribbles and pages torn out and estimates written in the margins. The new phone book was shiny and it smelled good. I would immediately look us up. For my entire life, our listing was exactly the same. We were always listed under my dad's first name, "Charles" even though my mom was a single mother. She was of the opinion that the phone book was no place to advertise that a widow and her four daughters were living in that big house on Stewart Avenue that didn't have any locks on the doors. Who was she fooling? Everyone knew us and knew for a fact that there weren't more than three or four male heads of household in our entire neighborhood.

Just for fun, I looked myself up in this newest phone book. It has the wrong names and an old phone number we don't have anymore. The address was right.

The thought of a phone book in every household is a staggering waste of paper, especially if the information is wrong and no one is reading them. In middle school, I made stand-up Christmas trees out of Reader's Digests and TV Guides, carefully folding each page and then spray-painting them green. But making one out of a full-sized Youngstown phone book was too challenging for me, even in my most Marthastewartian phase.

I felt better when I found Alex Queral on the Internet. He carves phone books into faces of famous people. He says he's making a statement about anonymity and identity and self and ego and overpopulation and such, but I suspect he likes using supplies that he can steal right off of people's doorsteps and no one will prosecute.

Here's a phone book Einstein by Alex:


Could there be something a little more practical? I found that others are making furniture out of phone books. . .

. . . and even small houses.

I stopped looking when I found a dress made out of phone book pages.

According to Cracked, phone books are one of the "6 technologies that don't know they're dead." Along with DVDs, video games on disc, and, um . . . um, magazines, which Cracked is. {{Awkward.}} It could be that they're just jealous that no one is wearing their magazine.


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