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 and
the shiny receiver on the side of the box.
I was too little to reach the telephone, but used to listen with fascination
when my mother would talk to it. Then I discovered that somewhere inside the
wonderful device lived an amazing person and 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-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 hammer. The pain was terrible but, there
didn’t seem to be any reason in crying because there was no one home to give
me 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 held the phone 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.
“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 a hammer and it hurts.
“Can you open your icebox?” she asked. I said I could. “Then chip off a
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 that my pet chipmunk, which I had caught in the
park just the 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 thing
grown-ups say to soothe a child. But I was inconsolable. 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, “You must
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 rural village in the Pacific Northwest. When
I was a teenager, we moved across the country to Boston. I missed my friend
very much. “Information Please” belonged in that old wooden box back home
and somehow I never thought of trying the tall, new shiny phone that sat on
the table in the hall.
As I later headed to college, 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
Decades later, on my way west for my job, my plane put down in Seattle. I
had about hour or so between flights. I spent 15 minutes on the phone with
my sister, who lived there now. Then, without thinking about 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 be 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 asked if I
could call her again when I came back that summer to visit my sister.
“Please do,” she said. “Just ask for Sally.”
Six months later I was back in Seattle. A different voice answered,
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 in the last few years because she was sick. She died five weeks ago.”
Before I could end the call she said, “Wait a minute. Are you Paul?”
“Well, Sally left a message for you. She wrote it down in case you called
when she was too sick to work. 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.
[This is a repeat from a grif.net 15 years ago and still brings tears to my
eyes. I do not know the origin of this story]
Dr Bob Griffin
“Jesus Knows Me, This I Love!”