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The Boston Globe

Ideas

The vanishing, underappreciated prank call

How the weird imagined landscape of the phone network shaped my adolescence

The other day, I came home to a phone book on my doorstep. I dropped it into the recycling bin immediately, pausing only to resent that I should have to do such a thing. Evidently, I’m not alone in greeting the phone book with a groan: most American households report using the phone book hardly ever or never; in communities where residents must opt in to receive one, only a tiny fraction do.

There was a time, though, when I saw the phone book not as a nuisance but as a treasure—when my friends and I could hardly believe that someone would just give the thing away. White pages in hand, we were artists, we were anthropologists, we were pirates of the high telephonic seas!

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