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Information Please

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 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?"

 "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 Please." 

 "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
your calls."

 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 Sally."

 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 sick.

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.

Author: Paul (or whoever?)