These days, a phone call to hippie-land needs no book

Published 11:20 pm Saturday, July 14, 2012

I couldn’t have been more than 4 years old. It was quiet — too quiet for anyone who has small children.

Mom heard my squeaky voice speaking. She sat in the living room; me in the kitchen standing on a chair in front of the rotary dial phone with tangled 10-foot cord.

We were the only two in the house.

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Yet I talked.. and talked.. and talked to, what Mom thought was an imaginary friend. Until she picked up the receiver and on the other end, speaking back, was a man from Woodstock, N.Y.

How, 34 years ago, did I manage to swing my finger through the rotary correctly enough to find a human being on the other end? And in Woodstock, no less. Peace, love and random phone calls.

Of course, the rotary telephone has disappeared into the land of nostalgia alongside the phone book that once was the lifeblood of local communication.

Now phone books are an eyesore, at least at the foot of the 500-foot driveway in Hinds County. I never asked for the book. I don’t want it. I don’t need it. Who needs to know phone numbers anymore?

So it sits, pitifully in the rain in the driveway. If brought into the house it would become a living room ornament, something to trip over or for the dog to munch on. Maybe I am just hoping it eventually degrades into the earth, page-by-page, until all that is left is “One Call That’s All” smiling from his perch on the back cover.

The phone book once was the backbone of local communication. Show a phone book to teens today and they probably will scoff. Phone books are not practical anymore, not when it takes 25 seconds to find Cook Tractor’s phone number, and only 36 seconds for Google to deliver more than a million results for Cook Tractor.

So add the phone book to the list of items we once found necessary but have become obsolete. Technology changes have been swift, and for those of us caught between the rotary telephones and Skypeing the day away, these changes are oh-so-difficult to digest.

I sometimes wonder whatever happened to that man at Woodstock, what he thought when his rotary phone began ringing.

Caller-ID did not exist then to allow him to screen the call. It might have made his day to talk to a 3-year-old from “down state.”

But I don’t know his name, or his number.

If only I had a phone book.

Sean P. Murphy can be reached at