“What’s black and white and read all over?” You probably thought the punch line to that old joke was going to be “a newspaper.” Today, a better answer could be “Not the white pages.” The residential phone book has been a fixture on our kitchen counters and in our junk drawers since not long after the first telephone directory was issued in 1878, a single page of customers in New Haven, Connecticut.
But regulators in many states are now giving phone companies permission to stop printing the white pages. The reason? Nobody really uses them anymore. A request to stop printing residential listings here in Oklahoma is pending. Phone companies say more people use the internet and mobile phones to find numbers. Also, more people are ditching land lines altogether.
At home, I can’t even tell you where our phone book is. At work, there’s one that’s used by one of my fellow anchors to sit on at the desk. And I still have a torn up ’04-’05 model sitting on the floor. I don’t even bother getting a new one when they come in every year, because I rarely look at it (except when I stumble over it). Besides, I can’t read it anymore, since the names and numbers get smaller as I get older. Go figure.
Who can forget this scene in “The Jerk”? Steve Martin’s character Navin R. Johnson yells,
The new phone book’s here! The new phone book’s here!….Page 73. Johnson, Navin R.! I’m somebody now! Millions of people look at this book everyday! This is the kind of spontaneous publicity, your name in print, that makes people.
Here’s clip of that scene from “The Jerk”:
Someday, some kid will watch that scene and ask, “What’s a phone book dad?”
- Companies Yank Cord on Home Phone Books (abcnews.go.com)