The Last Time I Called “Time”

It was probably on a push-button phone.
I remember how novel it felt to get one of those,
replacing the rotary dial-up model that had hung
on the kitchen wall for so many years,
a light green plastic model to match the wall paint.
For years it was the only phone in the house,
situated on the first floor, a pain
if you were on the third floor and it rang.
That break-neck run down to see if you could
get there before the caller gave up and hung up.
It was worse if I was out in the yard working.
That Jesse Owens full tilt sprint up the hill to see
if I could get there in time to answer with enough breath to talk.

Before the green wall mount, there was a black one sitting
on one of our four portable TV trays, in the same location,
perched atop both the white and the yellow-pages phone books.
I remember how novel it felt to get not only a phone
that took up no floor space, but one that was not black.
All phones everywhere were black, black with white dials,
and those tiny letters scrunched in above the numbers 2 through 9
inside the area of those small holes, holes perfect to dial with
the eraser end of a pencil like actors did on TV.
About the same time my folks grew tired of running,
we had a second phone installed on the third floor.
Then, if you were on the second floor you had a choice:
a jog one flight up or one flight down.
You still had to run up from the yard if you were out there working,
but once we bought our first wireless with an answering machine,
the caller could decide whether to leave a message or hang up.
No more running for us.

With wireless came a phone for the second floor.
One phone per floor, such decadence.
With three phones came annual delivery of
three white-pages books, and three yellow-pages books.
Six phone books.
The forests that fell for all of us to phone numbers unknown.

The last time I called time, I remember her well,
the high-tech sounding electronic voice:
“At the tone the time will be.”
I don’t remember the last time I called information, 411,
nor do I remember the last time I called the operator, 0.
They were both real people, however, and you could
actually have a conversation with them if you wanted to.

I have no “landlines” anymore, no answering machines.
It’s only cellphones now, and if I want to look up a number, it’s Google.
One of these days, they will probably stop delivering phone books.
Nowadays it’s only one slim volume, half white, half yellow.
I pick it up off the front door mat and carry it to the recycling bin.

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