Friday, May 25, 2018     Volume: 19, Issue: 12

Santa Maria Sun / Humor

The following article was posted on February 18th, 2014, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 14, Issue 50 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 14, Issue 50

'Insidious': The Phone Book Edition

Shelly tries to stop the seemingly innocuous volumes from overtaking her home


I was sitting at the kitchen table typing at my computer when a strange young man caught my eye. He was walking toward the house with a bundle in his hands. He wore a beanie, T-shirt, big sunglasses, and a beard. By his appearance and the bundle he was carrying, I instantly suspected his intentions.

My gaze caught his eye and he suddenly stopped where the drive meets the patio. My face scrunched into an angry warning: “Don’t you do it, man,” I thought, as he reached into his bundle, pulled out a phone book, and tossed it—hard—at my house before turning and walking briskly away.

At this time, I should admit I have a huge and peculiar quirk that few people know about: I passionately detest phone books.

No, I don’t think you understand: I can’t stand phone books. I hate them. I loathe them.

I actually had the urge to jump up after the phone book thrower and make him take the phone book back—or, even better, toss it at his back, hard.

I admit this sounds a little weird, but I’ve waged war against phone books for about eight years now. I don’t allow them in my house. I refuse to use one, ever. But it’s not me; it was the phone books that started this war.

It was 2006, and we had just bought a business. There was a room in one of the offices to store reference materials. We planned to make that room an after-school hangout for our boys. But first I had to clear out hordes of phone books that inexplicably lived in that room. They were stacked floor to ceiling. They were shoved into drawers. They were forced into every crevice of the room … all 80 of them.

But not all 80 were immediately apparent, mind you. They were sneaky, insidious; they hid, they lurked. And I tried in vain to get rid of them.

What were they doing there? What did they want?

At first it was just a stack. Then I moved a file cabinet and I found a few huddled together between that cabinet and the wall. I opened a stuck desk drawer, only to surprise two more, their pages intertwined in a messy embrace. One side of the wall cabinet was filled with them. The corner under the desk was the dark, seedy hangout of 10 of them, all dirty, distressed and stained.

For weeks it became my mission to get rid of them. At first, it was simply to make space and organize. But every time I thought I got them all, I’d find another stack somewhere. That’s when it became a mission.

Then, when I was winning, I began to see one or two of them pop up here and there. There was one crouching behind the broken coffee maker. I reached for a dictionary between two reference books and the shape-shifter revealed itself as a phone book. They were hidden everywhere. That’s when it became a war.

For several months, I’d see one pop up randomly somewhere it didn’t belong. Because of that, I never will know if I got them all. But at the time, all I could do was deal with them as I found them—and not let any more come in. I became adamant about not acquiring phone books. Someone would drop one in front of my business and I’d toss it straight into the recycle bin outside. I wouldn’t even bring it into the office, lest it reproduced—like gremlins or something. I mean, I didn’t know the rules behind these things; I had to play it safe.

That mentality stayed with me even after the business. At home I insisted on no phone books. Then I became fanatical about it. I would throw a fit if a family member innocently brought one inside. So they didn’t, although more than once I’ve spotted a few sitting on the workbench in the garage, most likely because my husband knows he can’t bring them inside, but thinks they might have some use and therefore can’t bring himself to throw them away. So I do.

Yes, they still land on my doorstep even eight years later, but like I said, I usually ask one of my kids to throw them away for me (I don’t even touch them anymore because of my disdain for them).

And then today, this knucklehead offends me by throwing one on my patio. At least this time it was pretty, with a colorful peacock on the cover. So I left it sitting on the patio, hoping that, I don’t know, it would disintegrate or disappear.

Instead, I got home from a meeting at about 9 p.m. and my youngest son, Sebastian, approached me with the phone book in his arms. He had naively invited the demon into the house.

He is too young to have watched my descent into phone book madness, and I’ve spared him from knowing it. Yet there he was looking at me with his big, round eyes, showing a hint of disappointment and sadness.

“Mom, I thought this was a book about peacocks, but it’s not. It’s just a phone book,” he said with a frown. The phone book is now living under a bunch of stuffed animals in my boys’ room getting ready to multiply.


Shelly Cone is sure there are now 15 phone books hiding out in her house, plotting a coup. Send her survival tips through the managing editor at

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