Directory lost use, gained weight

The Baltimore Sun

Inconvenient truth: Phone book is waste

The new phone books that we'll never use arrived the other day, just in time to replace the old phone books we never used.

The new books came in a plastic bag placed next to the mailbox and included the Verizon Greater Baltimore White Pages, the Verizon Greater Baltimore Suburban East Yellow Pages and what appeared to be a shrunken edition of the Verizon Greater Baltimore Suburban East Yellow Pages that seemed to contain much of the same information as its bulked-up cousin.

In addition to these three phone books, any day now we'll receive the 2008 Your Community PhoneBook for northern Baltimore County, which will contain much the same information as the three phone books mentioned above.

Not long after that, it'll be time for the 2008-2009 Yellow Book to arrive.

If you're scoring at home, that's a total of five phone books.

Five phone books that no one in the house will ever use.

For the simple reason that no one ever uses phone books anymore.

Instead, what happens every year is this: We lug the new phone books inside and put them in the hall closet, where they take up lots of space.

Then we take the old phone books that were there previously taking up lots of space and throw them out.

(Speaking of taking up space, here's a little phone book trivia: collectively, the five phone books weigh nearly 15 pounds. Yes, I've weighed them. On a bathroom scale. Yes, I'm embarrassed to admit this. And if you stack them on top of each other, they're nearly 8 inches thick. Yes, I've measured them. With a Sears Craftsman tape. I have a lot of time on my hands.)

But is this an unbelievable waste of paper or what?

Understand, we're not the only family that finds phone books annoying.

The fact is, there are only about two dozen people in the entire country who still use the phone book.

When we need a phone number, most of us dial 411 and shout at the automated voice that says "City and state, please," and invariably can't process what we're saying.

Or we log onto superpages.com or yellowpages.com, or Google the business we're looking for and the phone number pops up.

OK, I realize there are people out there who don't have computers. But I bet they don't use the phone book either.

Using the phone book takes way too long and will basically drive you insane. By the time you finally find the number you're looking for, you're too annoyed to talk to anyone.

Me, I'd rather shout at the 411 automated voice any day.

In any event, since whole forests are slaughtered to make these phone books that no one uses, you wonder why this hasn't become more of an environmental issue.

Here you have tree after tree after tree falling to the high-pitched whine of chain saws wielded by burly loggers in flannel shirts and jeans with sunburned faces and a chaw of Red Man bulging in one cheek, just so the law offices of Stanley L. Massario or whoever can proclaim: "See our ad in the Yellow Pages!"

Does this seem right to you?

Why aren't Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and John McCain talking about this on their campaign stops?

Here's another thing about these phone books: You never see anyone drop them off in front of your house.

They must do it in the dead of night, or when everyone's at work or something.

That's because they know no one wants these phone books.

If people knew exactly when the phone books were being delivered, it would touch off riots in the streets.

People would be lined up outside their houses waving their arms and shouting, "No, no phone books!" as the delivery truck went by.

OK, even as I write this, someone just told me that some phone books are made from recycled paper.

So maybe that stuff about slaughtering all those trees was a little overblown.

But it's still a ridiculous waste of paper. Most of these books are more than 2,000 pages thick.

Yes, I counted them, too.

Maybe I'll try to get out more.

kevin.cowherd@baltsun.com

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