Bead Boutique
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                             Information Please

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 foot stool 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.

"Information"

"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?" the voice asked.

"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," said the voice.

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

Then, there was the time Petey, our pet canary died. I called
"Information Please" and told her the sad story. She listened, then said
the usual things grown-ups say to soothe a child. But I was unconsoled. I
asked her, "Why is it that birds should sing so beautifully and bring joy to
all families, only to end up as a heap of feathers on the bottom of a
cage?"

She must have sensed my deep concern, for she said quietly, "Paul, 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. When I was 9
years old, we moved across the country to Boston. 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
table in the hall.

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
Seattle. I had about half an hour or so between planes. 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
said, "Information, Please." Miraculously, I heard the small, clear voice I
knew so well, "Information."

I hadn't planned this but I heard myself 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 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," 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 the last few years because she was sick. She died five weeks
ago."

Before I could hang up she said, "Wait a minute. Did you say your name
was Paul?"

"Yes."

"Well, Sally left a message for you. She wrote it down in case you called.

Let me read it to you." The note said, "Tell him I still say there are
other worlds to sing in. He'll know what I mean."

I thanked her and hung up. I knew what Sally meant.

(Name withheld)

Never underestimate the impression you may make on others. Whose life
have you touched today?