In days of yore, before digital mobile phones, the Internet, automatic
switchboards, and telephones with dialing abilities, one picked up the
telephone receiver and spoke to an operator. If one did not know the tele-
phone number of the person one wished to call, one said, ‘‘Information
please’’ and found the following anonymous Web site:
When I was quite young, my father had one of the ﬁrst telephones in our
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 used
to talk to it.
I discovered that somewhere inside the wonderful device lived an
ing she did not know. ‘‘Information Please’’ could supplyanybody’s num-
ber and the correct time.
My ﬁrst personal experience with this genie-in-the-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 didn’t seem to be any 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.
Quickly, I ran for the footstool in the parlorand dragged it to the land-