White Pages gone: good riddance. (How about the yellow pages, too?)
For years, I’ve been dreaming of a non-White Pages Christmas, unlike the ones we used to know. Where the White Pages were actually a necessity if, say, you wanted to look up the address of someone in your town you wanted to send a Christmas card to. You were, of course, out of luck for out-of-towners, since, in all likelihood, you just had the White Pages for your own city. Still, the White Pages had their uses.
Of course, the big-mama of those uses (duh!) was looking up a phone number for a call you wanted to make. If you didn’t want to call the Operator, or, later Information – which eventually started to cost money – you let your index finger do the walking, running it up and down the white page columns until you found the name, address, and – aha – phone number you were looking for.
But I suspect that it’s been quite a while since anyone much under the age of 80 has used the White Pages for anything other than to prop a door open, or for a papier-mâché project.
My primary emotional association with the White Pages is being with my grandmother, the day she moved out of the house where she had lived for over 60 years. Nanny was in her early nineties, and was going to be moving in with my Aunt Margaret.
On “moving day”, I found her sitting in her dining room, the phone book – in Worcester, a combined White and Yellow Pages - in her lap. She looked up, fairly upset, and told me she wanted to look at her name in the phone book for one last time, and couldn’t find it.
I went to help her and realized that she’d been looking under “Trainor”, her maiden name, not “Rogers”, her married name.
A rare incident of mental confusion for my grandmother, who lived to nearly 97, sharp until the end. But a very sad one, and an interesting indication of how important the White Pages were at one point. For Nanny, it told the world who she was and where she lived: her own, separate, personal identity. Today, she could “google” herself to confirm her existence (or not).
Sentiment aside, for many years, the wholesale printing and distribution of the White Pages has been an utter waste, complete nonsense.
The ones that were delivered to the building I live in languished on the stoop until I brought them into the foyer, where they languished until I put them in the recycle bin and they were trucked away.
Calls to Verizon made not difference. We got those suckers whether anyone wanted them or not. Ditto for multiple unused copies of the Yellow Pages and, not to be outdone, the Yellow Book, which all followed the Tinkers-to-Evers-to-Chance White Papers route: stoop to foyer to recycle.
There oughta be a law – other than the one that, I guess, dictated that the phone companies had to give out directories.
…regulators have begun granting telecommunications companies the go-ahead to stop mass-printing residential phone books. In the past month alone, New York, Florida and Pennsylvania approved Verizon Communications Inc.'s request to quit distributing residential white pages. Residents in Virginia have until Nov. 19 to provide comments on a similar request pending with state regulators. (Source: Huffington Post.)
Massachusetts, I’m a hoping, will not be far behind.
A win for the environment, a win for the phone company (do you think that they’ll pass on the savings to us?), and a loss only for the old folks who still use them, if there are any, and the printers who produce them.
On balance, good riddance to bad
One of the reason that White Pages use is declining is, of course, the rise of the cell phone. Cell phones, for whatever reason, don’t get their numbers listed in the White Pages (on or off-line). Perhaps because no one is going to carry around a copy of the White Pages alongside their cell phone. Not like the good old days, when you could park your phone book next to your (stationary) phone – perhaps, using one of those nifty phone-benches. And the number of land lines is really plummeting. I hadn’t realized by how much:
The number of traditional land lines has been declining for the better part of the decade, and now are being disconnected at a rate of nearly 10 percent each year, according to company financial reports.
And a survey conducted for SuperMedia Inc. by Gallup shows that between 2005 and 2008, the percentage of households relying on stand-alone residential white pages fell from 25 percent to 11 percent.
Let the phone companies make White Pages available to those who want us, and include the rest of us out.
Mostly, I’m a big fan of the printed word. Printed on paper. And I don’t want to see books in print get entirely replaced by digitized versions.
I do, however, make an exception for phone directories.
Alas, there’s no end in sight for the Yellow Pages.
But, with the news of the demise of the printed White Pages, I remain guardedly optimistic about their Yellow companions.