Thursday, September 15, 2011

How Do You Explain a Phone Book to a 3-Year-Old?

The other day Elliot and I were walking home from the library when we passed a van filled with phone books. Two men were stuffing the directories into bags in preparation to deliver them to people's doorsteps.

I didn't realize it then, but we were witnessing what may be much rarer in the near future. Like other West Coast cities, Berkeley is now moving to curb the delivery of phone books — partly to save trees, but mostly because no one wants them anymore.

From the Chronicle:
Berkeley's City Council is set next Tuesday to push for an anti-phone-book measure like the one adopted by Seattle, in which phone book companies are fined $125 per book for delivering to residents who don't want one.
"It costs a hell of a lot more energy to produce these phone books, deliver them and then recycle them than it does to not produce them in the first place," said City Councilman Gordon Wozniak. "The fact is, you can get all that information online, and most people already do."

When Elliot saw the van filled with phone books, he was riveted.

"What's that, Daddy?"

"Those are phone books, Elliot."

"What is phone book?"

"It's a book with phone numbers in it. So if you want to know someone's number to call them, you open up the book and find their name — it's listed alphabetically — and then you..."

Elliot looked confused.

I had to admit, the whole concept seemed idiotic. He knows we look up everything on the computer, and the important numbers are already stored in our phones. (I went through a similar experience when we walked by the last remaining Blockbuster Video in Berkeley and I had to explain what it was.)

"It's something people sit on to be taller."