When I was quite young, I discovered that somewhere inside the telephone
lived an amazing
person - "Information Please" and there was nothing she
did not know.
My first personal experience with this person came one day while my
mother was out. Amusing myself at the tool bench, I hit my finger
with a hammer.
The pain was terrible, but there was no one home to give me any sympathy.
I walked around the house sucking my pounding finger, finally arriving
at the telephone!
Quickly, I unhooked
the receiver and held it to my ear. “Information
Please," I said into the mouthpiece.
After a click
or two, a small clear voice spoke into my ear.
"I hurt my finger. . ." I wept
loudly. The tears came readily enough,
now that I had an
"Isn't your mother home?"
"Nobody's home but me," I cried.
"Are you bleeding?"
"No, I hit my finger with the hammer and it hurts."
"Can you open your icebox?" she asked. I said I could.
off a little piece of ice and hold it to your finger."
After that, I called "Information Please" for everything.
I asked her for help with my geography or with my math.
When my pet canary
died. I told "Information Please" the sad story. She tried
to soothe me. But, I was not consoled. 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
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
, “How do you spell ‘grateful’?
All this took place in a small town in the Pacific Northwest. When
I was 9, we moved to Boston.
As I grew into my teens,
the memories of those childhood
conversations never really left me. I appreciated now how patient,
and kind she was to have spent her time on a little boy.
A few years later, on my way to college, my plane put down in Seattle.
I had about half an hour or so between planes. Without thinking, I
my hometown operator
and said, "Information, please."
I heard the small, clear voice I knew so well, "Information."
I hadn't planned on this but I heard myself saying, "Could you
please tell me how to spell ‘grateful’?"
There was a long pause.
Then came the soft-spoken answer, "I guess your finger must have
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 told her how often I had thought of her
over the years and I asked if I could call her again."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 tell you this,"
she said, "Sally died five weeks ago."
Before I could hang up she said, "Wait
a minute. Did you say your name was Paul?"
"Well, Sally left a message for you.
She 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