Remember telephone books? Well, of course you do. Just because anybody anywhere in the world can be found in fifteen seconds on a computer or mobile phone doesn't mean we're finished with phone books. We can't be, we get four or five of them on our doorstep every year.
I followed a fascinating conversation on Facebook this morning which began with the news announcement that San Francisco has decided to ban the unsolicited delivery of phone books. To politically conservative me it's another laughable example of how local and state governments are assuming control over the simplest matters of our personal lives. It's what some of us like to call the Nanny State. Of course, blaming "government" in a generic sense is easy and fashionable. The fact is, they do these things because a lot of people want them to.
This isn't a political column, it really isn't. Though I do think it is worth noting that San FranNanny (oops, sorry...that just slipped out) has already banned McDonalds Happy Meals and has an issue on next November's ballot that would outlaw circumcisions. (I know...right?)
And now, phone books.
From the reactions I read on Facebook this morning it seems a lot of people are spitting mad about having to dispose of a phone book they didn't ask for and won't use. I'm not kidding, this is a big deal to some folks. Personally, I think a phone book is very easy to throw away and as it doesn't happen more than occasionally it's just not high on my list of things that stress me out.
I don't use phone books anymore, except very rarely to balance a table with one short leg. Since you're reading this on a computer you probably don't use phone books, either, but a lot of people still do. How do I know that? Easy. Phone books will disappear from American life when they cease to be profitable.
As I thought about it I realized there are a couple of fairly serious issues at hand here. First of all, if we're going to ban phone books from being dropped on the porch, why stop there? How about outlawing junk mail? Ye gads! I have to throw that stuff away every single day! It's enough to make a preacher spit!
And what about those business cards people leave in my screen door offering to mow my lawn or fix my plumbing? And free weekly local newspapers I didn't subscribe to and the Pennysaver?
I have to put that stuff in a trash can all by myself!
As long as we're passing laws to restrict people's ability to advertise their products and services because old-fashioned neighborhood commerce now annoys us, I say it's high time to crack down on those pesky Girl Scouts hawking their damned cookies outside the supermarket. (That's not only annoying, it's deadly! Have you read the caloric and sugar content on those boxes? Somebody needs to file a class-action suit against these cute, young tools of corporate America!)
I'm being sarcastic and silly, right? Somebody will do it. Mark my words, before much longer somebody will stop Girl Scouts from selling their cookies.
My money's on San Francisco.
If phone books on the porch are one of our biggest problems I think America is in far better shape than I imagined. On another level, though, I am a bit worried about our society.
It seems to me we're becoming awfully self-centered, lazy, pissy and intolerant of each other.