The Old Phone

Discussion in 'Et Cetera, Et Cetera' started by windtalkerways, Mar 28, 2006.

  1. windtalkerways

    Gold Member

    Feb 6, 2006
    Likes Received:
    This is just a sweet story that was
    first published in 1966 in Reader's Digest
    but very worth the read. :smile:

    When I was quite young, my father had one of the first telephones in our
    neighborhood. I remember 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 talked to it.

    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 anyone's number and the
    correct time.

    My personal experience with the genie-in-a-bottle came one day while my
    mother was visiting a neighbour. Amusing myself at the tool bench in the
    basement, I whacked my finger with a hammer, the pain was terrible, but
    there seemed no point in crying because there was no one home to give

    I walked around the house sucking my throbbing finger, finally arriving at
    the stairway. The telephone! Quickly, I ran for the footstool in the parlour
    and dragged it to the landing. Climbing up, I unhooked the receiver in the
    parlour 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.


    "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?" the voice asked.

    "No," I replied. "I hit my finger with the hammer and it hurts." "Can you
    open the icebox?" she asked.

    I said I could.

    "Then chip off a little bit of ice and hold it to your finger," said the

    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. She told me my pet chipmunk that I had caught in the park
    just the day before, would eat fruit and nuts.

    Then, there was the time Petey, our pet canary, died. I called, Information
    Please," and told her the sad story. She listened, and then said things
    grown-ups say to soothe a child. But I was not consoled. I asked her, "Why
    is it that birds should sing so beautifully and bring joy to all families,
    only to end up as a heap of feathers 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 in the now familiar voice. "How do I spell fix?" I asked.

    All this took place in a small town in the Pacific Northwest. When I was
    nine 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 shiny new phone that sat on the table in the

    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.

    A few years later, on my way west to college, my plane put down in Seattle.

    I had about a half-hour or so between planes. I spent 15 minutes or so on
    the phone with my sister, who lived there now. Then without thinking what I
    was doing, I dialled my hometown operator and said, "Information Please."

    Miraculously, I heard the small, clear voice I knew so well. "Information."

    I hadn't planned this, but I heard myself saying, "Could you please tell me
    how to spell fix?"

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

    I laughed, "So it's really 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 call 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", she said. "Just ask for Sally."

    Three months later I was back in Seattle. A different voice answered,
    "Information." I asked for Sally.

    "Are you a friend?" she said.

    "Yes, a very old friend," I answered.

    "I'm sorry to have to tell you this," she said. "Sally had been working
    part-time the last few years because she was sick. She died five weeks ago."

    Before I could hang up she said, "Wait a minute, did you say your name was
    Paul?" "Yes." I answered.

    "Well, Sally left a message for you. She wrote it down in case you called.

    Let me read it to you." The note said, "Tell him there are other worlds to
    sing in. He'll know what I mean."

    I thanked her and hung up. I knew what Sally meant.

    Never underestimate the impression you may make on others.
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