phone book madness

When searching for a phone number these days, one is faced with a dilemma:  Which phone book do I use?  Which phone book is most likely to have the number I’m looking for?  If I can’t find the number in the first book I pick up, what are the chances I’ll find it in one of the other 5 phone books competing for my attention? 

I currently have, in my office, the following phone books.  Please keep in mind that they all claim to be the most comprehensive listings:

  • Feist Yellow Pages
  • City Metro Area white pages
  • Three different county-specific books
  • Two local area books

So which phone book do I use?  My first instinct is to use the most accessible phone number directory I have – THE INTERNET.  I don’t use the six printed phone books stacked under my desk, unless I’m desperate, for two good reasons: One, because I don’t want to spend 5 hours poring through the teeny tiny typeface, my nose pressed to the page so my extremely myopic eyes can actually see the words, and Two because it’s unlikely I’ll actually find what I’m looking for.  And then there’s the question of which book I should use.  The metro edition which lists some of our area, one of the county-specific directories that cover some of the outlying areas, or perhaps I could give one of the local books a shot?  It really doesn’t matter – the phone books probably won’t be worth ruining my eyesight for anyway. 

Today a sales call came through from a gal wanting to sell me advertising in The Northland Directory.

“But we already have an ad in the Northland Directory”
“Is it THE Northland Directory?  Because we’re the most comprehensive Northland specific book”
“I don’t know. It’s the Northland something or other.  It’s really hard to know considering I get about 1000 phone books every year…”
“Look, if I advertised in every single book out there, I’d be broke.  OK?” 

I could have stopped there, but how often do you get a chance to unload several year’s worth of phone book frustration on a person who actually works for a phone book??

“There are too many books!  Why are there so many?  It’s ridiculous to have so many phone books.  Do you realize how confusing this is???”  I clamped my mouth shut, realizing the poor woman – phone book ad salesperson or not – had no control over the problem of massive phone book bombardment on the American public.

“Sorry to bother you” she said nicely and hung up.  I imagined her quickly crossing our business name off her contact sheet with a super-wide Sharpie, obliterating our name for all eternity.  At least I hope that’s what happened.

 The other day we started receiving our yearly phone books at the house.  Strangely, the people who do the deliveries are rarely seen actually putting the books on the porch, but it seems that everytime I open the door there’s a bright yellow plastic sack containing yet another phone book staring me in the face.   I imagine the delivery people have been coached thoroughly by their bosses to be discreet.  “Look,” the manager tells them in the pre-delivery meeting, “people don’t really want these things anymore. We know that.  So just do your job and get the hell out of there without drawing any attention to yourselves.” 

Right now I have phone books shoved into every possible phone-book appropriate place in the house.  Throwing them away seems wasteful and un-Al Gore-like, but recycling them is a bitch.   But occasionally I’ll go on a phone book purging rampage.  ‘Thunk’ into the trash can.  Thunk, thunk thunk, until I’m down to just one regular phone book and my shelves can once again be used for more practical items – like books I actually use. 

After that I’m good for about two weeks.  And then I open the front door…
They’re baaaaack.


9 Responses to “phone book madness”

  1. 1 joebec August 16, 2007 at 11:20 am

    hey there!

    i can understand your frustration. i get new phone books about every 2 months. no matter though, they make great kindling!

    i use one # all the time for info, it’s FREE !!!

    800-373-3411. toll free directory. it’s nationwide and there is an automated reply service or you can talk to an operator. hope this helps put an end to your woes!

    Hey, thanks for the tip. I had no idea there was a free directory assist in the US. I always figured those “free” services snuck in some kind of charge somewhere! I’m going to give it a try.

  2. 2 Anthony North August 16, 2007 at 11:39 am

    Hi OB,
    We’re not quite that bad in the UK with phone books, but there are a few. They aren’t actually delivered by humans. I think it’s fairies, leaving them in a flash, before you notice.
    And of course, they don’t really exist. I discovered that when our local authority started issuing recycling bins for our rubbish. The paper bin instructions were quite specific. It does not take phone books.
    I wonder if there’s a number listed that you can call to complain. But I suspect that doesn’t exist either.

    You know the hardest numbers to find are the ones to call the phone companies. Our recyling service also doesn’t take phone books! I wonder if posting a sign on my house that says “no phone books!!” would work. Nah, it would probably only mark me as Crazy Phone Book Lady…

  3. 3 V- August 16, 2007 at 12:46 pm

    We had yet another phone book delivered to our doorstep yesterday. I mentioned to Troy how archaic it was. I didn’t think anyone used them anymore… I guess they do. Kindling is a great idea though. I’ll save mine for winter!
    I get most of my numbers from

    OK, I didn’t know about either. I have completely missed out on some stuff lately. There’s a website that suggests you use your old phone books as booster seats for kids. Grandma used to do that years ago – do you remember that?

  4. 4 RubyShooZ August 16, 2007 at 1:11 pm

    It’s time to have a phone book tearing contest. You could invite all the brawny guys and gals you know, and even ones you don’t and invite them all over to help tear up the old phone books.

    Then, you could have a phone book burning party afterwards and roast marshmallows.

    Have fun with your phone books!

    Peace, love and understanding.

    That would actually make a good fundraising activity for athletic teams. People could bet on who could tear the most phone books in 5 minutes, then everyone could take the remnants home for kindling!

  5. 5 Simonne August 16, 2007 at 7:21 pm

    Wow, we don’t get many phonebooks in Oz, thank goodness by the sounds of all this! I never use them anyway!
    Anthony, I have to tell you, there are definitely no phonebook fairies! The fairies are the true conservationists on the planet and I suspect they’d be very anti-phonebook 🙂

    Sx: Unless they’re the anti-fairies who are pro-phonebook. Oh, I couldn’t resist!

  6. 6 poseidonsmuse August 16, 2007 at 7:44 pm

    The Tree Spirits are enraged! How dare we waste precious tree fibre on phonebooks, when we have a perfectly good, paper free alternative called Internet 411. All the trees in the Universe should revolt and slowly clomp their way to the Useless Telephone Book Publishing companies and destroy THEM! LOTR, anyone? Ok. Now, I am riding the wave of inanity and sillyness here. Will someone please give me a surfboard!

    Yowie! Surf’s up Muse. I hate the waste of the phone book! It really ticks me off that instead of fewer paper use, there seems to be MORE! Argha! (Did I just say Argha?)

  7. 7 Deb August 16, 2007 at 7:57 pm

    I don’t have any phone books, I don’t think, but the phone companies here claim to take the old phone books and recycle them. I think my county will recycle them as well. I haven’t paid much attention, since I somehow have been able to miss out on the phone book mania.

    It would never occur to me to open a phone book, it is the ‘net all the way for me! I even got my mom trained on this. When I’d be at their house, mom would look up something in their smallish phone book, and I’d go for the ‘net, and I would always “win”, so she came over to the dark side with me. lol.

    Funny that joebec mentioned that 800 number – Rich and I were just talking about it this weekend and I programmed it into my phone!

    I love it when I can lure my mother over to the dark side once in awhile. I’ve got her trained pretty good on the internet, but she still drags out those damn phone books. Just wait till you’re in your condo for awhile longer – they’ll find you, my pretty…

  8. 8 poseidonsmuse August 17, 2007 at 8:16 am


  9. 9 poseidonsmuse August 17, 2007 at 8:16 am

    Lol! It’s Friday…I couldn’t resist!

    ps. I’m glad!

    Yippee Skippy!

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