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Date: Fri, 12 Jun 1998 13:27:18 -0500 (CDT)
From: Queen of Eden 
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Subject: Information please...
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When I was quite young, my father had one of the first telephones in
our neighborhood.  I remember well the polished old case fastened to
the wall.  The shiny receiver hung on the side of the box. I was too
little to reach the telephone, but used to listen with fascination
when my mother used to talk to it.
Then I discovered that somewhere inside the wonderful device lived an
amazing person. 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-the-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 sympathy. I walked around the
 house sucking my throbbing finger, finally arriving at the stairway -
 The telephone!  Quickly I ran for the footstool in the parlor and
 dragged it to the landing. Climbing up I unhooked the receiver 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 enough now that I had an audience.

 "Isn't your mother home?" came the question.

 "Nobody's home but me." I blubbered.

 "Are you bleeding?"

 "No," I replied. "I hit my finger with the hammer and it hurts."

 "Can you open your icebox?" she asked. I said I could. "Then chip off
 a little piece of ice and hold it to your finger."

 After that I called Information Please for everything. I asked her
 help with my geography, and she told me where Philadelphia was.  She
 helped me with my math, and she told me my pet chipmunk I had caught
 in the park just the day before would eat fruits and nuts.

 And there was the time that Petey, our pet canary died. I called
 Information Please and told her the sad story. She listened, then
 the usual things grown-ups say to soothe a child. But I was
 unconsoled.  Why is it that birds should sing so beautifully and
 joy to all families, only to end up as a heap of feathers, feet up
on  the bottom of a cage?
 She must have sensed my deep concern, for she said quietly, "Jim,
 always 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. Then
 when I was 9 years old, we moved across the country to New York. I
 missed my friend very much. Information Please belonged in that old
 wooden box back home, and I somehow never thought of trying the tall,
 shiny new phone that sat on the hall table.

 Yet 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
 Tacoma.  I had about half an hour or so between plane, and I spent 15
 minutes or so on the phone with my sister, who lived there now. Then
 without thinking what I was doing, I dialed my hometown  operator and
 "Information Please".

 Miraculously, I heard again the small, clear voice I knew so well,
 "Information." I hadn't planned this but I heard myself saying,
 you tell me please how-to spell fix?"

 There was a long pause. Then came the soft spoken answer, "I guess
 that your finger must have 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 I asked
 if I could call her again when I came back to visit my sister.

 "Please do, just ask for Betsy."

 Just three months later I was back in Tacoma. . .A different voice
 answered Information and I asked for Betsy.
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