Stopping the Phone Book Insanity. (Phone Book Blog 4)

14 Mar

March 14, 2011

Regular readers of this blog may recall that last year the various companies dumped enough phone books in my lobby that we could have built a second (and probably cleaner) building next door. The proverbial house of cards would have nothing on us.

After yet another company’s useless phone book was dumped in my lobby I (metaphorically) ran out on the porch and shook my fist, yelling that they better keep off my lawn or else. Or else what? Or else another blog. This one prompted a response by someone who is actually in the phone book biz and tried to defend them. Sad, really.

Well, no less a respected newspaper than the New York Times took up my call. OK, so they were probably planning the story anyway, but I say that I prompted their article about the utter waste that is the printed phone book. Flying in the face of all reason, not to mention facts, I stubbornly say that I scooped them.

And that was not the only time I have scooped the mainstream media.

I assume that by now you have clicked on those links and are now thoroughly up to date with all the ways the phone book is unneeded. Of course I also assume that the United States will have a sound fiscal policy in my lifetime so I may not be too secure in my assumptions. (However, I do think that I am safe in my assumption that the Mets will not make the playoffs this year. Or next year.) In short, the internet gives tons more info and the phone book doesn’t list cell phones, which only a measly ten bazillion of us have.

The phone book is roughly 4.2 times more useless than the average human appendix. At least the removal of an appendix is an excuse for a doctor to charge enough to make his next four boat payments. What does the removal of a phone book gain anyone but a more crowded landfill? Sure, we can recycle them, but who wants to go through all of the bother when it would be so much easier to not print the book in the first place?

It isn’t like the production of the phone book keeps a lot of people employed. All it takes is one guy to go to his computer and hit “alphabetize.” Hemingway does not write phone books. Granted he’s dead, but were he alive I suspect he would not write a phone book. And the printer? The phone book is a once a year contract. I’m sure they could find another high school newspaper to fill the time if they stopped the phone book.

And we’d have a lot more trees.

One group of people the phone book does keep employed are the people who write those silly ads that scream ARE YOU INJURED? and ERECTILE DYSFUNCTION. Who needs them? The less things that scream erectile dysfunction the better.

For the sake of argument, let us assume that someone actually needs the phone book. And yes, I really do believe there are one or two people like that in every city. Elderly shut-ins looking up the names of old friends to see if they are deceased. Weirdos who like to see their name in print. The random business owner who stubbornly believes that a four line ad in the yellow pages gets them more traffic than promoting their website on Google. But do all those people need five phone books? One phone book is enough to stand on to reach the top shelf. If you need more height go stand on a chair.

Phone Book Season kicked off late this time around. Last year by the end of January we had already inundated the sanitation department with seeming millions of phone books tossed out in the street. For weeks little kids were making forts out them and playing cowboys and personal injury attorneys. This year the phone book didn’t stick its head out of its hole until the third week of March. It saw its shadow, came out, and Mayor Bloomberg fired it and 4,600 teachers despite having a budget surplus of about 3 million dollars. (True dat. The teacher thing, anyway.)

But a funny thing happened on the way to my lobby. (No, not this blog- I said “funny.”) For some reason we have so far (fingers crossed) only gotten one company’s phone book. Last year we had five. And get this- instead of the about 1/4 trillion books we received last year, we got only enough books for less than half of the apartments in the building. I know what you’re thinking- how many people took the phone book this year? Good question. After a week of watching the piles sit there like lumps of dirt- or just like phone books, take your pick- it looks like maybe four were taken. And this is a six-story building.

There was a new twist this year. Along with the phone book we sometimes get a restaurant guide from a phone book company. That one has all the takeout menus we usually find shoved under our door and later toss away in one handy volume so we can toss them all away at the same time. We didn’t get that this year. Instead we got an attorney guide. That one I took.

My main reason for taking it was to see if my lawyer was in there. He was not. But I don’t take that as a warning sign. If it doesn’t bother me that his letterhead has another lawyer’s name scratched out and his penciled in with a purple marker why should this? And besides, the volume is only about 60 pages thin- a mere pamphlet, really- and seems to list the same dozen lawyers over and over. Look up personal injury and you’ll find a huge full-page ad for “Lawyer Company X.” No, that is not their real name. I don’t want to be sued; these are lawyers I’m mocking! Turn to bankruptcy and you’ll find the same ad for “Lawyer Company X” but with “personal injury” changed to “bankruptcy.” Want to make out a will? Same company, same ad. The only thing that is different between them and my lawyer is that mine was too cheap to buy an ad.

So the lawyer book is a waste but it takes up less room and killed less trees so I don’t feel so bad about not recycling it and just tossing it down the garbage chute.

(I reread that sentence, saw I used “so” three times, began it with a conjunction, and it is thisclose to being a run-on. I left it anyway. Sometimes it is the voice that counts more than the content. Especially this content.)

The bottom line of all this mishigas (Google it) is that I fully expect this to be only the opening salvo in my war on sanity- sorry, I mean war on the phone book. One company down, four to go. If the tanking economy means we will only be getting a sensible number of phone books, for that one reason I am grateful that New York is in trouble.


2 Responses to “Stopping the Phone Book Insanity. (Phone Book Blog 4)”

  1. JRD Skinner March 14, 2011 at 12:40 pm #

    An attorney guide seems like an odd insert, but I get the impression things are a little different, lawyer-wise, down there.

    I love the precision of, “The phone book is roughly 4.2 times more useless than the average human appendix,” and would greatly enjoy watching the rigorous battery of tests that were undertaken to determine the number.


    • bmj2k March 14, 2011 at 1:09 pm #

      An eminent team of scientists were contacted. They refused to help. I then contected a slightly less eminent group of scientists. They laughed at me. I finally got in touch with a group of protologists I found in the phone book. In their office above a bodega they conducted an exhaustive battery of tests on willing (and some unwilling) subjects and came up with the result, which I then ignored and posted the 4.2 number you see above.


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