With the exception of newspaper deliveries and solicitations for house painting and security systems, our mailbox attached to the house does not get much use.
Therefore, when I hear the thunk of the lid being raised and lowered, I make haste to the window to see who might be outside at the box. If no one is in sight, I cautiously open the door, stare up the street and down, and then raise the mailbox lid to see what might be inside.
On this particular day the drop-off was one that in my earlier years brought considerable excitement. Now in my later years, it is still a welcome addition to our home, but my excitement is tempered in knowing this piece of our lives has changed and is but a shadow of its former self.
So what is causing my heart to flutter? Why the new phone book, of course.
I know some younger folks of my acquaintance will look at me in confusion, either not knowing how important the book was to long-ago telephone subscribers, or more likely, never having used the services of the book that is delivered free-of-charge to households, businesses and apartment dwellers.
To put the phone book in context for them, it was the forerunner of Google and other electronic search engines. In my days of staff direction, I often had to refer colleagues to the phone book when Google amazingly failed to provide the information they required.
We have a stack of phone books on our phone table going back to the 2016-2017 edition. While Housemate thinks I should dispose of them, I ignore his wishes because quite often I refer to the old volumes to find an address of someone who now has a cellphone and is no longer listed in the newer book. If I find the address, I can at least write a letter or send a card.
The 2023/24 book is now on the phone table, taking up considerably less volume than its predecessors.
Did you know that this year’s book, not counting front and back covers, has 232 pages, down from 268 pages in 2021/22 and down from 296 pages in 2020/21. More alarming is that in the 2016/17 book we had 408 pages to browse for names, addresses, phone numbers and menus of favourite restaurants.
The Moose Jaw phone numbers are confined to page numbers 55-89 in the latest book, compared to pages 55-112 in 2016/17 and 55-94 in last year’s book. Again, this decline can be attributed to more cellphone use, and also for privacy issues where some folks don’t want just anyone to know their address or phone number.
One of the first tasks I undertake when the new book arrives is to make certain our name, address, postal code and phone numbers are correctly listed. Yes, there we are, on page 87 this year, compared to page 92 last year and 109 in the earliest book I have in hand. We’re “movin’ on up.”
I noted, in my snoopiness, that we have maintained the same phone book neighbours for all the years represented by my collection. To ensure their privacy, I won’t reveal their identities, but thank them in this way for their steadfast dedication to phone books.
I have no idea why it should interest me, but I always wonder if anyone has been assigned the phone number my parents had when they lived in my hometown. I spent a few minutes looking through all the numbers in the Mortlach exchange and it appears that no one listed is using that old number. Maybe one of these days I will give it a call and see if anyone answers.
While browsing through names and numbers, I also noticed that a friend of long standing is no longer listed. Hmmm. She is still alive, I see her on Facebook, and I saw her in person just recently. I might no longer have her number, but I know where to find her. The dependable phone book from a few years ago gives me her address. Won’t she be surprised to see me when I go calling!!
Joyce Walter can be reached at email@example.com
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the position of this publication.