Sent in by Robin Rhyne
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 and the shiny receiver on the side of the box.
I was too little to reach the telephone, but used to listen with
fascination when my mother would talk to it. Then I discovered that
somewhere inside the wonderful device lived an amazing person and 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-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 hammer. The pain was
terrible but, there didn't seem to be any reason in crying because there
was no one home to give me 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 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 a hammer and it hurts."
Can you open your icebox?" she asked. I said I could.
"Then chip off a piece 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 that my pet chipmunk, which 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, then
said the usual thing grown ups say to soothe a child. But, I was
inconsolable. 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, you
must remember that there are other worlds to sing in." Somehow, I felt
Another day I was on the telephone. "Information Please."
"Information," said the now familiar voice. "How do you spell fix?'" I
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 somehow I never thought of trying the tall, new
shiny 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
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 about what I was doing, I dialed my hometown
operator and said, Information Please."
Miraculously, I heard the small clear voice I knew so well.
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 be 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,
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 in the last few years because she was sick. She died five
Before I could hang up she said, "Wait a minute. Are you 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 make on others.
Lighter Side Archive