The latest Yellow Pages arrived with a thud in my neighborhood the other day, and, from the looks of it, a lot of those fat books will still be lying on stoops and doorsteps when the world ends.
On Tuesday, I saw a woman climb her front stairs and, with an annoyed look, kick the hefty lump out of the way rather than pick it up. It plopped to the ground beside the porch, where it seemed destined to molder in perpetuity.
Bad, bad, bad.
Yet I was empathetic. She was probably thinking: I didn’t ask for this blob at my front door. Why should I have to work to get rid of it? Ignore it and maybe it will go away.
But the Yellow Pages book won’t just go away. It sits outside your home like a puppy yapping to come in. Finally, you relent. Bend over, lug it into your arms and let it lurk around the house until you have the energy to toss it out.
As soon as it’s gone, there’s another big fat yellow book lounging on the steps.
After years of this routine, muttering at the inconvenience and wincing at the waste, I’ve finally figured out a better way: Opt out. I’ll explain.
Before banishing the printed Yellow Pages from my life forever Tuesday, though, I decided to open them one last time.
A distant era washed over me. Flimsy pages of tiny type and big ads. Repairmen, locksmiths, bankruptcy lawyers. It was strange and familiar, like a whiff of my father’s aftershave.
Ah, the days when I could read the teeny type without glasses. When I had the patience to leaf through pages unrelated to my quest. When I could still alphabetize.
Going through the book felt homey, informative in a way different from online. All those enterprises cohabiting in the same physical space created a portrait of Chicago different from a Google list.
Flipping past hotels, my eye landed in a glance on the Skylark Motel (Steps from Midway Airport); the Regal Motel (4 Hour Nap Rates); and the Gateway Motel (Bereavement Group Discounts).
Google "Chicago" and "hotels" and you may get a more efficient answer to your lodging quest, but you could miss such colorful detours.
Efficiency is king now, though, and the paper waste hard to tolerate.
The publishers of Yellow Pages — they range from national companies to regional ones — know they have a problem.
Like all businesses that involve the old-fashioned medium of paper, they’re moving their product online, but they say that there are still more people who want the book than the online data.
To be more environmentally friendly, they’ve switched inks, adopted paper that doesn’t require the harvesting of trees and are using less of it. Books that used to weigh 22.5 pounds have been pared to as little as 18.
That’s still a lot of paper. And it’s pointless if you don’t use it.
"It doesn’t do us any good to deliver something people don’t want," said Peter Larmey at Dex One Corp. when I phoned Tuesday. Dex makes the "Real Yellow Pages" that just landed in the Chicago area.
So the industry is making it easy to opt out or to choose to get certain directories and not others. Last summer, it introduced http://www.yellowpagesoptout.com. To opt out of a Dex book directly, go to http://www.selectyourdex.com or call 1-866-60-MY-DEX.
It’s better than kicking the book off the porch.