I recently suggested to my sister that a nice birthday gift next year would be a new address book. The one I have now has seen better days – in more ways than one.
I assume that such books are slipping into oblivion, along with road maps and telephone books. Most young people I know and lots of my fellow Boomers consult their smart phones for the information I have listed in my address book. When friends and relatives call me, they press one number stored in their cell phones; on my landline I dial all ten digits from one of the many entries in my book, most of which are written in cursive. I am probably one of the last holdouts with an address book that will soon join the phone booths and classroom blackboards slipping ever deeper into obsolescence.
I am thinking my new book will be my third. I must have owned one during my years at Otterbein: a while back, I unearthed a cache of letters from college friends with whom I regularly corresponded during summer breaks and then as we transitioned into our adult lives and new occupations. It could be that I received that now-forgotten address book as a high school graduation present.
I clearly remember, however, my second book, the one I bought in the 70s when I began to travel with students. The sole specification: it had to fit into my purse, ever at the ready when I needed to contact an exchange agency, an airline, a relative at home, or a colleague abroad.
The address book I have now seemed almost luxurious when I purchased it in 2002 – after my annual summer treks to Europe had ended. I loved its glossy 5” by 8” dimensions and the white plastic-coated spirals allowing it to lie open flat. No more purse storage for me; this book has shared a desk drawer with my stationery and greeting cards for almost twenty years.
However, the shiny modernity of that brand-new book began wearing off a good ten years ago. Today there are sticky notes attached to random pages, along with several business cards taped here and there. The inside covers front and back are a messy mass of passwords, crossed-out and current.
The entries, some written neatly with proper spacing and some scratched in at an angle, are in desperate need of updating. It will be a relief to start over in my new volume, although I fear the upcoming version will contain the fatal flaw of all address books: inadequate letter distribution.
In my current book, each letter of the alphabet has been allotted four pages, each page containing space for five entries – in other words, room for twenty family members, friends, business establishments, official offices. Exceptions are the letters Q, U, and V with two pages each and two pages to which the X-Y-Z combination has been assigned.
This widely-accepted arrangement is totally insufficient for my needs. Clearly, I need extra space on the S-pages for all the relatives sharing my surname; I have at least forty entries scribbled in every available space – and in every available color – on those four S-pages. By the same token, I have blank pages under F, I, and J. I probably should cultivate some new friendships with people named Fleming or Innes or Jefferson. Hey, maybe Jeremy Irons or Hugh Jackman would be pen pals with me!
As I thumb through my about-to-be-replaced address book, however, I realize what an exercise in family history it will be to transfer all that information to my 21st century edition. The original entries for my nieces and nephews, when they finally acquired addresses of their own, contained dormitory names and then apartment numbers. Now they have married names and live on fashionable courts and terraces in communities with HOA fees and cul-de-sacs. But these new, slim-downed entries will be written neatly, with no more cross-outs following their progression into adulthood, no more arrows as each next address snakes its way around the page.
I also understand how bittersweet it will be in February when I record updated information in my birthday gift. Sadly, there will be names and addresses I will not be transferring. A few of them, such as the Ole’ Book Nook and Wolfe Florists, are businesses no longer in existence for my patronage. And then there are dearly-departed friends and family members whose names will not appear at all. Somehow my new book will seem less complete, a little emptier without those entries.
However, I optimistically anticipate new entries: addresses and phone numbers of people I have yet to meet – or old chums with whom I will rekindle past friendships. There will be new businesses to discover and record, as I did with the tree service that made such a difference in my backyard. And hopefully there will be at least a couple of changes in elected officials representing me locally, in Columbus, and in Washington. I will enter their email addresses for future, regular correspondence. I am also pretty sure that more business cards and the occasional sticky note will wind up somewhere in my new book – and that string of passwords required in today’s world will grow ever longer.
Just now when I returned my address book to the stationery drawer, I noticed the title on its front cover: “Lifetime Address Book”. Hmm, guess not!
Shirley Scott, a 1966 graduate of Graham High School, is a native of Champaign County. After receiving degrees in English and German from Otterbein College, she returned to GHS in 1970 where shack in Julye taught until retiring in 2010. From 1976-2001 she coordinated the German Exchange Program with the Otto-Hahn-Gymnasium in Springe.