A 5.7 N.Y. Times story by Patrick McGeehan reports that Verizon, the dominant local phone company in New York State, “asked regulators on Friday to allow it to end the annual delivery of millions of White Pages to all of its customers in New York. The company estimates that it would save nearly 5,000 tons of paper by ending the automatic distribution of the books.
Which means that those “those inches-thick tomes of fine-print telephone listings that may be most useful as doorstops, could stop landing with a thud on doorsteps across New York later this year,” McGeehan reports.
I haven’t skimmed through a paper phone book in well over a decade, but now they’re really history. McGeehan’s story signifies that the above joke in Woody Allen‘s What’s Up Tiger Lily? (1966) — one of the funniest lines I’d heard when I first saw Allen’s film on the tube in the early ’70s — is about to become extinct. It will no longer have even a fragmentary sense of relevancy or meaning in the physical world. It’ll be like a joke about hoop skirts or Model Ts or straight razors or bathtub gin.
“Only about one of every nine households uses the hard-copy listings anymore, according to Verizon, which cited a 2008 Gallup survey. Most have switched to looking up numbers online or calling directory assistance. The phone book for many people, it seems, has gone from indispensable tool to unavoidable nuisance.”