Information Please

Morning Story and Dilbert

Vintage Dilbert May 12, 2000

When I was quite young, my family had one of the first telephones in our neighborhood. I remember well the polished oak case fastened to the wall on the lower stair landing. The shiny receiver hung on the side of the box. I even remembered the number – 105. I was too little to reach the telephone, but used to listen with fascination when my mother talked into it. Once she lifted me up to speak to my father, who was away on business. Magic! Then I discovered that somewhere inside that wonderful device lived an amazing person – her name was “Information Please” and there was nothing that she did not know. My mother could ask her for anybody’s number and when our clock ran down, Information Please immediately supplied the correct time.

My first personal experience with this genie-in-the-receiver 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 of much use crying because there was no one home to offer 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 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 fingerrr-” 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 at home but me,” I blubbered. “Are you bleeding?”. “No”, I replied. “I hit it with the hammer and it hurts”. “Can you open your icebox?” she asked. I said I could. “Then chip off a little piece of ice and hold it on your finger. That will stop the hurt. Be careful when you use the ice pick,” she admonished. “And don’t cry. You’ll be alright”.

After that, I called Information Please for everything. I asked for help with my Geography and she told me where Philadelphia was, and the Orinco–the romantic river I was going to explore when I grew up. She helped me with my Arithmetic, and she told me that a pet chipmunk–I had caught him in the park just that day before–would eat fruits and nuts. And there was the time that Petey, our pet canary, died. I called Information Please and told her the sad story. She listened, then said the usual things grown-up say to soothe a child. But I was unconsoled. Why was it that birds should sing so beautifully and bring joy to whole families, only to end as a heap of feathers feet up, on the bottom of a cage? She must have sensed my deep concern, for she quietly said, “Paul, always remember that there are other worlds to sing in.” Somehow, I felt better.

Another day I was at the telephone. “Information,” said the now familiar voice. “How do you spell fix?”. F-I-X.” At that instant my sister, who took unholy joy in scaring me, jumped off the stairs at me with a banshee shriek-“Yaaaaaaaaaa!” I fell off the stool, pulling the receiver out of the box by its roots. We were both terrified–Information Please was no longer there, and I was not at all sure that I hadn’t hurt her when I pulled the receiver out. Minutes later, there was a man on the porch. “I’m a telephone repairman. I was working down the street and the operator said there might be some trouble at this number.” He reached for the receiver in my hand. “What happened?” I told him. “Well, we can fix that in a minute or two.” He opened the telephone box exposing a maze of wires and coils, and fiddled for a while with the end of the receiver cord, tightened things with a small screwdriver. He jiggled the hook up and down a few times, then spoke into the phone. “Hi, this is Pete. Everything’s under control at 105. The kid’s sister scared him and he pulled the cord out of the box.” He hung up, smiled, gave me a pat on the head and walked out the door.

All this took place in a small town in the Pacific Northwest. Then, when I was nine years old, we moved across he country to Boston-and I missed my mentor acutely. Information Please belonged in that old wooden box back at home, and I somehow never thought if trying the tall, skinny new phone that sat on the small table in the hall. Yet, as I grew into my teens, the memories of those childhood conversation never really left me; often in moments of doubt and perplexity I would recall the serene sense of security I had when I know that I could call Information Please and get the right answer. I appreciated now how very patient, understanding and kind she was to have wasted her time on a little boy.

A few years later, on my way back to college, my plane put down in Seattle. I had about half an hour between plan connections, and I spent 15 minutes or so on the phone with my sister who lived there now, happily mellowed by marriage and motherhood. Then, really without thinking what I was doing, I dialed my hometown operator and said, “Information Please.” Miraculously, I heard again the small, clear voice that I know so well:”Information.” I hadn’t planned this, but I heard myself saying, “Could you tell me, please, how to spell the word ‘fix’?” There was a long pause. Then came the softly spoken answer. “I guess,” said Information Please, “that your finger must have healed by now.” I laughed. “So it’s really still you. I wonder if you have any idea how much you meant to me during all that time….” “I wonder,” she replied, “if you know how much you meant to me? I never had any children, and I used to look forward to your calls. Silly, wasn’t it?” It didn’t seem silly, but I didn’t say so. Instead I told her how often I had thought of her over the years, and I asked if I could call her again when I come back to visit my sister when the semester was over. “Please do. Just ask for Sally.” “Goodbye Sally.” It sounded strange for Information Please to have a name. “If I run into any chipmunks, I’ll tell them to eat fruits and nuts.” “Do that,” she said. “And I expect one of these days you’ll be off for the Orinoco. Well, good-bye.”

Just three months later, I was back again at the Seattle airport. A different voice answered, “Information,” and I asked for Sally. “Are you a friend?” “Yes,” I said. “An old friend.” “Then I’m sorry to have to tell you. Sally had only been working part-time in the last few years because she was ill. She died five weeks ago.” But before I could hung up, she said, “Wait a minute. Did you say your name was Villard?” “Yes.” “Well, Sally left a message for you. She wrote it down.” “What was it?” I asked, almost knowing in advance what it would be. “Here it is, I’ll read it-‘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 did know what Sally meant.

By Paul Villard

  1. kiwiskan said:

    And maybe the song will be better there…

    • atmokupe said:

      definitely. No sickness…no sorrow….no tears…

    • Oh, I am sure the song will be much better there!!! Thanks for the comment… Take care and I hope you have a wonderful day. 🙂 Kenny T

      • kiwiskan said:

        Thanks Kenny. I am always amazed at how you manage to answer all your comments…

    • Rainebug said:

      Simply amazing, as I wipe tears…..Thank you for reminding us how much we can touch another’s life so deeply. What a blessing when you live to reap the benefits.

    • shawnej said:

      I Love your posts. GOD Bless You! He is using you to minister through your posts. You have a gift of picking just the right stories for your blog. I have been laughing and crying this morning reading your posts. I had a lot on my mind that I was praying about and decided to read your posts. Your posts have blessed me this morning. No matter what keep posting, this is your ministry and gift. Have a safe and blessed weekend!

      • Thank you for your comment!!! And I must give God the Glory!!! This level of stories keep popping up and I keep posting…. Take Care God Bless and have a great weekend 🙂 Kenny T

      • kiwiskan said:

        Thanks for your encouragement Shawnej. I thought my blog was a bit too eclectic , but you make me feel better about it.

      • kiwiskan said:

        Oops shawnej – Just realised your reply was to morningstory. Too early in the morning!

  2. OneHotMess said:

    Another tear jerker….yes, there will be a better world to sing in! Thank you!

    • Thank you for the comment and thanks for stopping by Morning Story and Dilbert on a regular bases!!! I hope you have a wonderful day… Take Care and God Bless 🙂 Kenny T

  3. atmokupe said:

    Wow! Touching indeed. I’m actually speechless.

  4. Beautiful story. I’m glad they got to really talk to one another. You never know the connections you make in life.

    • Hey Judy, and sometimes in those “Connections” in life we are Blessed!!! Take Care and I hope you have a wonderful day….. 🙂 Kenny T

  5. lala1966 said:

    oh my! what a touching story. Thank you for sharing xx

    • Hey LaLa, I’m glad this story touched your heart!!! Take Care and God Bless 🙂 Kenny T

      • lala1966 said:

        I added you to my blogroll because everything I have read from you has been wonderful!

        • OH my, You just brought a tear to my eye and I am honored to be placed on your Blog Roll!! 🙂

          • lala1966 said:


    • You are welcome!!!! Look to His Peace this morning…. My prayers are with you. Take Care and God Bless 🙂 Kenny T

    • Hey, Thanks for the comment. The “more beautiful meaning” is what I look for in a story. Sometimes I call it “Dilbert Material. ” Take Care and God Bless 🙂 Kenny T

  6. Sometimes I think you are in charge of my tear ducts! Another great post. God bless. Connie

    • LOL 🙂 Not long ago I recieved a comment asking if I worked or had stock for the Kleenex industry…. Kenny T

      • Good question! Definitely something you might want to consider. Gotta run. Need a Kleenex! Hugs, Connie

  7. This is such a beautiful post that has touched me very deeply, it is truly amazing how kindness, gentleness, love and patience and all the fruit of the Spirit your dear Sally possessed stayed with you throughout the years. Praying that her song is truly beautiful where she is and that you can hear her voice in the breeze.

  8. admin said:

    This story really shows how care, concern and love can connect us to others. We all make others lives better when love flows. Thank you Kenny T for a great story that still has me thinking. 😀

  9. Margaret said:

    Those phones bring back so many memories. I was never as daring as the author and did not get to use the phone until I was a teen. Then we had a dial. In many ways, today’s cell phones have lost touch with humanity. I’ve been enjoying your posts for some time and just want to say thank you for everything you share. And thank you for your visits.

    • Hey Margaret, I’m so glad you are enjoying the Stories!!!! Take Care and God Bless 🙂 Kenny T

    • Hey Paula, Thanks for stopping by Morning Story and Dilbert. Your comment has made my day!!! Take Care and God Bless 🙂 Kenny T

  10. Thank you so much for sharing this story…it has me moved to tears ♥

    Funny how the smallest, most “insignificant” things mean so much…

    God Love You ♥

  11. We would all be better off with more “Sally” kind of people in our lives. Now when we want information we google an impersonal computer site and bask in our lonliness. I grew up in a farming neighborhood and had several on our party line. We knew our rings–two long, one short, etc and didn’t always have to call “central” for a connection. We could ring the appropriate code with the hand crank on the side of that wooden box! Sharing your story today. Thanks. Karyl

    • Thanks for sharing!!! I believe these stories are touching a lot of people, so the more they are shared the better!!! And one more thing, I really look forward to your comments…. Take Care and God Bless 🙂 Kenny T

  12. Sahir Al-Said said:

    Beautiful story. Really enjoyed it! I’m wondering what your children are saying of your storyteller-skills! 😉

  13. Mia said:

    You visited my website and I thought I would pay you a visit to. I am so glad I did! Your stories are a joy to read and always leaves a smile on my face. Thanks for your visit and your lovely story!

  14. Debbie said:

    Sis, love you! This is kind of long, but I thought you might like it! And, it took place in the Pacific Northwest! :) love and prayers! deb

    • Almost crying sometimes is worst than having a real tear jerking cry….. Especially at work!!!!! LOL Have a great weekend Take Care and God Bless 🙂 Kenny T

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