Chrystal Ann Kaminski (surrealkiller) wrote,
Chrystal Ann Kaminski

The Old phone..

When I was quite young, my father had one of the first telephones in
our neighborhood. I remember 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 talked 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 anyone's number and the correct time.

My personal experience with the genie-in-a-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
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 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 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.


"My name is John and 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 the icebox?" she asked. I said I could.

"Then chip off a little bit 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 the chipmunk that I caught in the park day 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, and then
said things grown-ups say to soothe a child. 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 of feathers on the bottom of a cage?" She
must have sensed my deep concern, for she said quietly, "John, 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 in the now familiar voice.

"How do I spell fix?" I asked.

All this took place in a small town in the Pacific Northwest.

When I was nine 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 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 a half-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 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 call 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, my name is
John and I am 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 John?" "Yes." I answered. "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 there are other worlds to sing in. He'll know what I mean."

I thanked her and hung up. I did know what Sally meant.
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