I remember when telephone books were as crucial to the reporters' craft as spiral notebooks and Marlboros.
Not long ago, a 20-something person asked me if I had someone's phone number, no doubt after some fruitless Google search.
"It's listed in the phone book," I said, thinking he would be pleased at such an easy solution.
Instead, he looked befuddled, as if I'd said: "The number you request is written in Sanskrit on the back of your eyelids, Grasshopper."
I had to walk through the newsroom to confirm my suspicion. Indeed, only about half of our reporters even have a phone book on their desks. With some of our younger folks, the phone book is practically obsolete -- the idea that you would actually look up a person's name, in alphabetical order, must seem to them like some sort of weird, 20th-century magic trick.
I'm old school. I love a good phone book. Actually not the White Pages, which are rather prosaic, but the Yellow Pages, which have their own hierarchy and jazzy fonts.
Plus, I learned long ago that the Yellow Pages are the best way to map trends. I once had a whole collection of phone books. For example, if there were 10 waterbed stores in the 1980 phone book and none in 1990 phone book, well, then you had yourself a trend, didn't you? Try doing that research on Google.
Imagine my delight then when, on the way out of Bi-Lo the other night, I spotted a stack of phone books meant especially for me: "The Senior Yellow Pages: Directory and More for the 55-plus." Having just turned 55 the previous week, I saw this as a cosmic gift.
My 6-year-old son, who believes in the literal interpretation of the Senior Yellow Pages, warned my wife against reading my copy because she is underage.
Flipping through the Senior Yellow Pages, I soon discovered that 55-plus, in this instance, stretches the definition of "plus." The first, grainy, black-and-white photo is of the Chattanooga Electric Light Co. circa 1894. If anybody living today is in that photo, well, bless your beating heart, I stand corrected.
Topics are arranged in -- you guessed it -- alphabetical order and include burial insurance, cataract surgery, glaucoma care, golf carts, joint replacement, Medicare supplements and piano movers.
Think about it. Nobody under 55 has ever required the services of a piano mover? Well, Liberace maybe, but he's dead.
There also are categories about senior obsessions such as gutter work and duct cleaning.
I never thought about duct cleaning until I got my first colonoscopy at age 50, and now I think about it constantly.
I wonder why?
Contact Mark Kennedy at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6645. Follow him on Twitter @TFPCOLUMNIST. Subscribe to his Facebook updates at www.facebook.com/mkennedycolumnist.
Mark Kennedy is the editor of the Times Free Press opinion pages and writes the Sunday “Life Stories” column. He also writes a Saturday automotive column, “Test Drive,” for the Business section. For 13 years, Kennedy was features editor of the newspaper, and before that he was the newspaper’s first Sunday editor. The Times Free Press Life section won the state press award for Best Community Lifestyles four times during his tenure. Before Chattanooga’s newspapers ...