The Old Phone on the Wall

      12 Comments on The Old Phone on the Wall

When I was a young boy, 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.

“Information.”

“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 my pet chipmunk that 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, 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, ” Wayne , 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 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 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, 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 Wayne ?” “

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 knew what Sally meant.

Never underestimate the impression you may make on others..

Whose life have you touched today? Lifting you on eagle’s wings. May you find the joy and peace you long for.

Life is a journey… NOT a guided tour.

*Author Unknown.

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12 thoughts on “The Old Phone on the Wall

  1. awildbrook

    Dagny,

    I was actually writing on human relationships in a recent post- how subliminal they are, like invisible threads that grow out of us without our own awareness. That is when I remembered this post. The child grows up, unaware of the impact of this ‘information please’ who is just a voice on the phone. ‘Information please’ actually knocks on awareness only by her absence in this child’s life. The child increasingly becomes aware of what Sally meant to him, and the climax is what puts the whole invisible process of bonding in perspective. This post also reminds me of the movie Patch Adams, where Patch refuses to see his patients as ‘cases’, and sees them as people. I am also reminded of a particular story that featured in Reader’s Digest years ago- of two young people suffering from cystic fibrosis, who meet in a hospital and fall in love and eventually die of the illness. Unfortunately, I do not have a copy of that…but the story evoked similar emotions.
    Thank you for this read.

    Vidya

    Reply
    1. Dagny Post author

      Dear Vidya,

      First of all, I am very pleased to read I was actually writing on human relationships in a recent post. So glad you’ve begun writing again.

      As you said, human relationships are so subliminal… so ethereal… so fragile. You never know through which chance encounter… through which series of mundane, inexplicable events you will meet someone you might almost have missed and forge a bond which lasts a lifetime. I posted a video on my wall yesterday… on people coming into your life for a reason, season or a lifetime. When you have time, go through the video. There are things in it that really connected deep within me- although I was familiar with the ‘reason/ season/ lifetime’ concept.

      You’ve added to my experience of this story. As you do each time we interact. Thank you…

      Love,
      Dagny

      Reply
  2. Rajesh Sood

    Dagny (……)

    The hidden thread of life is all about our relations and connections with each other which come to fore from time to time..eventually we fall back on them and we get our answers..

    Humans are all about connections and your story connected..

    Rajesh.

    Reply
    1. Dagny Post author

      Rajesh,

      Inexplicable connections, strong connections… bonds that stand the test of time in their universality. What else is the human experience?

      So glad to re-connect with you again. And a pleasure to see you here once more.

      Thank you for coming by,

      Dagny

      Reply
  3. Julia Dutta

    Dagny,

    As I am reading Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland, I may add – Birds of the feather flock together – whether it is flamingoes and mustard as observed by the Duchess, or human beings!

    The final point to make, you are really good in human skills!

    Julia

    Reply
    1. Dagny Post author

      Dear Julia,

      That’s an awesome compliment… coming from you. I am all knocked out. Thank you so much..!

      I am going to hold that validation to my chest always. I cant tell you how thrilled I feel. The thrill of the compliment has actually dwarfed the pleasure of seeing you on these pages.

      Birds of a feather do flock together. You and I are living testimonials to that adage, aren’t we…?

      Thank you for making my day today…

      Love,
      Dagny

      Reply
  4. namitasunder

    Dagny….just before this I was reading something and came upon this sentence……..’to the world I may be a person but to a person I may be the world’…….the bond between Sally and Wayne was precious to both in this extent.
    The sense of emotional security Wayne got during childhood lasted lifelong.
    beautiful…..a very good read.

    namita

    Reply
    1. Dagny Post author

      Namita,

      That sentence fits so perfectly with this story. Thank you for reminding me of it.

      How important it is for a child to have a sense of emotional security..! And how they know instinctively where to forge bonds..!!

      I am glad you enjoyed the story. Thank you. 🙂

      Dagny

      Reply
  5. tenjade

    Dagny, i always thought i would comment on this….but kept delaying. the truth is that this story touches your soul everytime you read it. that is the beauty of the relationship which exists between human beings….such stories makes the life all worth-living. very soul-stirring story…loved reading it

    Reply
    1. Dagny Post author

      Sumi,

      Its a pleasure to see you here. The story does indeed touch your soul… deep inside. It reminds us of our common destiny, it gives us a moment of subliminal one-ness with all humanity. And it reminds us that there are many other worlds to sing in. 🙂

      Do come again… 🙂
      Dagny

      Reply
    1. Dagny Post author

      Shishir,

      For us, who believe in re-birth, death is a chance. It is an opportunity to begin again… it is a chance at another life… with greater wisdom than before. And yes, I strongly believe that though the memories of our current life get wiped out, our wisdom… which becomes a part of our soul… carries over into the next birth.

      That is why all wise people urge you to observe your errors and to learn the lesson it is trying to teach you. This learned wisdom will then be yours for all eternity. 🙂

      Isn’t that a comforting thought..?

      Love,
      Dagny

      Reply

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