Tuesday, August 15, 2017


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 neighbor. 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> 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 parlor 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.
> 'Information.'
> '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
> 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 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, 'Wayne 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 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 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 dialed my home town 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> Wayne?'
'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.

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