Paul Timmins (noweb4u) wrote,
Paul Timmins

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A touching telecom story.

I read this in the Telecom Digest (comp.dcom.telecom) and I wanted to share it with everyone...

When I was very 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 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 me
sympathy. I walked around the house sucking my throbbing finger
finally arriving at the stairway, the telephone! Quickly, I ran for
thefootstool 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
enoughnow 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, "You must 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 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 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 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. "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 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,
"Information." 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 weeks ago." Before I could
hang up she said, "Wait a minute. Are you Paul?" "Yes." "Well, Sally
left a message for you. She wrote it down in case you called when she
was too sick to work. 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.

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