Friday, September 6, 2013

I'll tell you what you can do with your phone books

A week ago, I found the annual delivery of telephone books in my front yard. Two thick volumes, one filled with white and the other yellow pages, were enclosed in a tightly secured, white plastic bag. For years now, I have been irritated by these useless bundles that are dumped off at my house with no consideration for the fact that they are about as useless to my life as the tampons I discovered in my bathroom closet ten years after my hysterectomy.  It has been at least that long since I started retrieving telephone numbers on the computer, and in all that time, I’m never once opened a phone book. I suspect I’m not alone. So, why do they continue to distribute these obsolete bundles of paper? I suppose it must have something to do with money. Businesses continue advertising in the yellow pages for reasons that completely elude me in 2013. And so, entire forests are sacrificed for nothing.

Now, I know there are still a handful of people who use telephone books, so I wouldn’t propose that they discontinue printing them. But why can’t they start delivering them only to the people who request them? Or, at least, why can’t I refuse to receive them?
Last year, when they delivered about a dozen phone books to the church, I told the guy who was hauling  them into the office that we didn’t want them and he could take them back. He insisted that he was supposed to deliver them and we had no choice in the matter. We had to receive them.

“But we don’t use them. We don’t want them,” I said.
“Well, what you do with them is up to you,” he told me, as he piled them up on the floor.

One year later, the absurdity of the situation was still gnawing at my brain. So, when I saw the bundle in my front yard last week, I was incensed. I picked it up and deposited it in my recycling can immediately, while muttering words of frustration that I dare not repeat here.

So then, on Labor Day, while I was working in my front yard, a man came driving up the street with a pickup truck loaded down with… phone books! Just like the ones that had been delivered to my house the week before – the ones that never made it into my house.  And I had had enough of this insanity. As he walked up my driveway, I stopped him in his tracks.
“Do you know that someone else already delivered those to my house last week?” He had a puzzled look on his face, but didn’t respond to me. “I didn’t want them then, and I don’t want them now.” Still, he didn’t respond. “So, don’t you leave those at my house. I didn’t ask for them, I don’t want them, and I’ll just throw them away!”

“Ma’am, it’s my job to deliver these. I have to leave them here.”
Yes, the man was simply doing his job. He wasn’t a decision-maker; he just got paid for dropping phone books off at every home. But I had had enough of this insanity.

I got right in his face. “Okay. If you insist on leaving these here, please save me the trouble and just take them around back to my recycle can because that’s where they belong!”

As he backed away and took his books with him, I felt a triumphant surge rushing through my body. It was but a small victory. But sometimes, even a small victory can mean a lot.
The world is out of control and I feel powerless to do anything about it. Violence and injustice and just plain craziness are running rampant. I try to ignore such things as long as I can, but they keep smacking me in the face, taunting me. And the anger I carry day after day slowly boils inside me. So, when I experience something in my little corner of the world that just isn’t right, I can’t hold it in. I may not be able to do anything about voter suppression in North Carolina, or poor children being thrown under the bus because of budget cuts, or an impending military strike on Syria, but I can stop someone from delivering telephone books to my home, by God.

No, it isn’t much. But it’s something.  

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