Information Please


When I was quite young, my father had one of the first
telephones in our neighborhood.  I remember well 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 used to talk 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 anybody's number 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 reason 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?"

"No," I replied. "I hit my finger 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 to your
finger."

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, and she told
me my pet chipmunk I had caught in the park just the 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-ups say to soothe
a child.  But I was unconsoled.  Why is it that birds should
sing so beautifully and bring joy to all families, only to
end up as a heap of feathers, feet up on the bottom of a
cage?

She must have sensed my deep concern, for she said quietly,
"Paul, 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 the now familiar voice.

"How do you spell fix?" I asked.

All this took place in a small town in the Pacific
Northwest.  Then when I was 9 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 tall, shiny
new phone that sat on the hall table.

Yet 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 half an hour or so between
plane, and 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 again the small, clear voice I knew so
well, "Information." I hadn't planned this but I heard
myself saying, "Could you tell me please how-to spell fix?"

There was a long pause.  Then came the soft spoken answer,
"I guess that your finger must have healed by now.

I laughed, "So it's really still 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, just ask for Sally."

Just three months later I was back in Seattle. . .A
different voice answered Information and I asked for Sally.

"Are you a friend?"

"Yes, a very old friend."

"Then I'm sorry to have to tell you. Sally has been working
part-time the last few years because she was sick. She died
five weeks ago."  But before I could hang up she said, "Wait
a minute.  Did you say your name was Paul?"

"Yes."

"Well, Sally left a message for you.  She wrote it down.
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.

-Thomas Monson

Information about Thomas S. Monson

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