When I was quite young, my father had one of the first telephones in our neighborhood. I remember the polished new casw 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 in fascination when my mother talked to it.
Then I decided that somewhere in the wonderful device lived an amazing person. Her name was "Information Please" and there was nothing she did not know. Information Please could supply anyone's number and the correct time.
My personal experience with the genie in the box came one day when 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 seemed no point in crying because there was no one home to give sympathy.
I walked around the house sucking my throbbing finger, finally arriving 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 and held it to my ear. "Information Please" I said into the receiver 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 easily 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?" The voice asked.
"No", I replied. "I hit my finger with the hammer and it hurts."
"Go to the ice box, chip off a small piece of ice and hold it on your finger" she replied.
"OK, Thank You, I said before hanging up.
I often called "Information Please" and she was always never too busy to help me with my important questions like "How do you spell "fix"? She helped me with my geography and told me where Pennsylvania was. She helped me with my math, etc.
One day my beloved pet canary Petey died. I called Information Please and asked why God makes things so beautiful, like my beloved pet who sang sweet songs and never hurt anyone only to take them away. She said, "Wayne, always remember, there are other places to sing."
This all took place in a small town in the Pacific Northwest. When I was nine we moved to Boston and I knew I'd have to leave my dear friend Information Please in that little box at our old house. When we moved I missed her dearly and the shiny new telephone in our new house never was the same.
A few years later on my way to college, my plane had a layover in Seattle. I had about an hour or so between planes. I spent about 15 minutes or so on the phone with my sister who lived there now. Then without thinking what I was doing, I dialed my old hometown operator and said "Information Please"
Miraculously I heard the small clear voice I knew so well.
I hadn't planned this, but I heard muself 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 have healed by now."
I laughed, "So it's really you! I wonder if you really meant to me during that time"
"I wonder", she said, "If you know I was unable to have children and I always looked forward to your calls."
I told her how often I had thought of her over the years and I asked her 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 for the past few years because she was sick. She died five weeks ago."
Before I could hang up she said "Wait! Are you Wayne?" Yes I answered.
"Sally left a note for you in case you called back; it says 'Tell Wayne there are other places to sing.' "He'll know what I mean.
Indeed I did know what Sally meant.