Phone books keep on coming – Hasso Hering


A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Phone books keep on coming

Written December 8th, 2014 by Hasso Hering
Those directories have been there for a while.

Those directories have been there for a while.

Every few months, it seems, another phone book hits the stoop. Or, in the country, the verge by the side of the road. Or the grassy strip next to your mailbox. The question is: Who needs all those phone books?

Phone books used to be useful when just about all the phone numbers were listed and the listings were uniformly up to date. Now most people have wireless phones whose numbers are not listed anywhere, at least not in the traditional phone book. And the regular directory, much slimmer now, includes the occasional number that has not been in use for six or seven years. One wonders about the systems that produce those books, with errors and omissions.

Instead of having much use for looking up numbers of people you want to call, the modern-day books serve mainly as a vehicle for advertising, or so it seems. The businesses that pay for listings evidently hope that someone looking for a lawyer or a plumber or a roofing company will turn to those books to find one.

Maybe it works often enough for those advertisers to still be willing to pay the price. But Oregon, you see evidence that at least a segment of the public is not impressed. In areas with rural mailboxes, the preferred delivery method seems to be to throw the new phone books on the ground. And that is where they stay, sometimes for weeks. If it weren’t for the plastic covering, the pages would turn to pulp in the rain.

Frankly, I miss the days when THE phone company — when we had just one — published a new book every year, and that was the only book we needed or received. In most cities it was big and thick enough to serve as a booster seat for little kids at the dinner table. Those days, alas, are gone and they’re not coming back. (hh)

5 responses to “Phone books keep on coming”

  1. Jim Engel says:

    Yes Mr Hering, I also lament those bygone days of Ma Bell & her book. When a long distance call was a real happening. You could dial up time. There was even “Dial-a-Prayer”. That long ago phone book was a treasure trove of information. Especially if it had a reverse directory in it. The books of today just make the recycling bag heavier! JE

  2. Bill Kapaun says:

    Don’t littering laws apply?
    This doesn’t just happen in the country. I live in the city and my mail box is across the street with 3 others. About a month or 2 ago, 4 books tossed on the grass of my neighbors property and none of the 4 mailboxes are his.

  3. Shawn Dawson says:

    I find the current phone books useful still. I guess since most of the people and businesses I know still have land lines, I can find the numbers far easier in the book than online. One would think that looking up numbers online would be great by now, but it is not. If I search for ‘John Smith in Albany, OR’, it frequently comes up with 50 John Smith’s all throughtout the country, and links to buy John Smith’s public records, but no actual phone number or address for the one in Albany.

    I do agree that it would be nice to only have 1 great book a year, and one that included cell phone numbers.

    Also, I do still use the yellow pages of the book to look up businesses. Our water heater went out last month, and I felt much more comfortable finding a plumber in the yellow pages than simply googling plumbers online. There is more of a permanency to a yellow page listing, that gives me some confidence in the business.



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