The other day marked an anniversary of sorts. Twelve years ago, I received a pair of telephone books on my doorstep, one white and one yellow. I picked both of them up and put them straight in the recycling tub, but not before I copied the web address which allowed me to opt-out of future deliveries. My wife used to half-heartedly look at the coupons but how many ice cream cone coupons does a person need? This was the first year I can remember not needing, wanting or even looking at one of these things, although we always hung on to them out of habit.
When I was working, I used to keep a small version of the white pages in my truck, which came in handy for looking up numbers or addresses on the fly, but that was a long time ago. Technology moved past these paper monsters years ago, and theoretically, anyway, the only generation that might use them can’t read the microscopic font without strapping on one of those surgical magnifying headsets worn by dentists.
So I politely registered my desire not to receive them, checking as the reason for my selfish decision as follows: I don’t need them. I thought it was a done deal.
The next year, I received two more.
I went back to the website and sure enough, there I was in all my do-not-deliver glory.
I filled out the form again.
The next year, two more showed up, this time out in the gutter near the mailbox. A quick glance down the street showed every house had two of these things, each pair sopping up water as the days went by. Within a week, they were the size of mattresses.
I went back online and checked the boxes again and even added a note telling whatever person was in charge that I actually felt bad throwing these away. Off the record, I get it. Some eager salesperson convinces car dealers, pizza makers and personal injury attorneys that X-number of these books are delivered and retained for a year, so for their advertising dollars, that can be extrapolated into a bazillion views. Except it doesn’t.
The next year, I happened to be walking up from the street when the phonebook delivery guy flopped a new batch of phone books at my mailbox and then took off as if he owed me money. I went down and grabbed the books and chased after him as he sped away to the next mailbox, but he was too fast for me. I assumed he was paid by the tonnage that he delivered while the fat cats at Big Telephone Book Inc. lit their cigars with my do-not-deliver requests.
On year eleven—last year—I got two more, and actually spoke with someone on the phone (I got the number online) who apologized and told me it would never happen again. I believed him because he gave me his name, the address of the delivery company and he spoke with boundless sincerity. I swear I could hear him weeping a little, he himself worried about trees and litter and probably stray puppies.
Which brings us up to last week, when I found the tiniest phonebook I have ever seen in my mailbox, the meager information squished into a booklet about the size of a Reader’s Digest (do they still publish those?). This was delivered not by a delivery company but by the United States Postal Service.
OK, so wait a second. I’m supposed to recycle my dental floss in the blue box so that the planet can gasp through another day and the U.S. Post Office is subcontracting to deliver this unnecessary paper doorstop from the 1990s that nobody wants? If that’s the way it is, I want to keep plastic grocery bags, throwaway electronics and plastic water bottles with caps large enough for an adult-sized hand to grab onto without crushing the bottle and spilling water all over his crotch, because I wear khakis and that’s kind of embarrassing.
I did what any modern man does, and sent a Facebook message to the company that prints these books that people want about as much as herpes, but they didn’t respond. I did get an e-mail from the opt-out company apologizing (a-gain) and offering to pick up the tiny phone book. I might have been tempted to take them up on the offer had the garbage company not already scooped up the recycling tubs and tossed the phone books in the truck, which was listing hard to the port side because of the weight of all the unwanted telephone directories.
So I’m asking, politely and with great concern for our wheezing planet but mostly because it’s really starting to challenge me, stop sending me telephone books. Every telephone number I need is programmed into my phone and if it’s not, I simply ask the phone to get the number for me. I don’t need a personal injury attorney, we make our pizza at home and I’m pretty sure I can find a car dealer in our area without the help of a phone book.