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Thursday, April 29, 2021

You Can Look Me Up

If you're a Boomer, you may have forgotten. If you're younger than that, you never knew. But there once was a time when just about anyone, anywhere, could be found by flipping through the pages of "the telephone book."

Every city, town and village had their own telephone books. They were thick, heavy and contained every citizen's name, address and, of course, telephone number. THey were free, and if you owned a land line, they'd be delivered to your doorstep every Spring, updated with the latest listings. The larger the population, the thicker the book. If you grew up during that era, telephone books were de facto booster seats: million of children balanced precariously atop stacks of them at restaurant tables, long before Chinese car seats were invented.
Telephone books aren't really around anymore. Not because people own fewer land lines, but more because this country has long since transitioned from a nation of neighbors to a mass market of automatons. The friendship and openness we once enjoyed as a culture has been programmed out of us, replaced by suspicion, all in the name of "privacy."

Try selling a concept of a phone book today and see how far you get. People would think you're nuts. Who in their right mind would hang out their personal name, address and phone number for anyone to see? Well, not too long ago, the American culture was far friendlier. The phone book was how people found you -- mainly by those who you wanted to find you. Everyone knew that if you wanted to get in touch, all you had to say was, "You can look me up. I'm in the book."

Of course, all that is gone now. You're reading this and thinking about stalkers, murderers and Communist activists doxxing and harassing you. The world, it would seem, is out to get you, so it's far better to hide out under the specter of anonymity.

Not true. As a veritable antique, I can tell you that it was a far better time when we assumed each others' trust. It was a richer life when we opened our lives and hearts, welcoming old friends who looked us up and new connections we wanted to meet.

Can you imagine a world in which there was no orchestrated fear? Lucky me. I lived it. Not so lucky you. Now put on both of your masks and stay six feet away.