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 l used to
listen with fascination when my mother used to talk 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 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
hall 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
"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," said the voice.
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
fruits and nuts.
Then, there was the time 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 un-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
"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.
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 table in the hall.
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 half an 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 dialed 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 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
I told her how often I had thought of her over the years and
asked if I could call her again when I came back to visit my sister.
"Please do!" she said. "Just ask for
Three months later I was back in Seattle. A different voice
answered "Information." I asked for Sally.
"Are you a friend?" she asked.
"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
She died five weeks ago."
Before I could hang up she said, "Wait a minute. Did you
say your name was Paul?"
"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 I still say 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.
~ Paul ~ or Whomever ~
A special thanks for sharing!