Monday, August 30, 2010

To be Listed or not to be Listed?

I grew up in a time when everyone had land lines and answering machines. If you needed to call a friend, you'd thumb through the telephone book and find their home number.

In my case, the telephone book was the very BIG Manhattan Directory, BUT our name wasn't in it.

Dad wanted to maintain privacy and be unlisted, but it cost .50c a month to be unlisted. Rather then pay, Dad made up a name...Archimedes I. Zzzyandottie, with enough zzz's to earn the last spot in the world's largest telephone directory. I thought it was normal to have a last name beginning with a B, but listed telephone number under three Z's.

Add that to my list of abnormal normalcies.

Needless to say, this attempt at privacy got a lot of press and prank calls.

Kids prank called it all the time, Playboy featured it in June 1963 AFTER HOURS, and authors created characters inspired by this mysterious Archimedes.

"We regret to report that- as is often the case with sequels-Alexander Graham Bell’s recently published Manhattan Telephone Directory doesn’t measure up to the promise of the authors earlier work…Speaking of numbers, the author has audaciously undertaken the abandonment of the Romantic tradition of lettered prefixes (such as Murry Hill, Gramercy…)in favor of the futuristic device of the digital dialing system-doubtless in an attempt to depict the elimination of individual identity in an age of expanding automation. The effect , ironically, has been so dehumanizing his characters and the book itself. But perhaps most culpably, the redoubtable Archimedes I. Zzzydottie - a picturesque and familiar figure in all of Bell’s more recent works, has the distinction of taking the last bow in the book..."

From Collecting Telephone Books by Gwillim Law:

"We began to see elements of beauty and utility in telephone books. Archimedes I Zzzyandottie was last in Manhattan but first in our hearts. Our neighbor Charles suggested that we write to him and say that his name had been selected at random from the telephone book. (We didn't.)"

Even mentioned as a character in John Crowley's book: Little, Big:

"And the phone book, when (just hypothetically, there was no immediate need) he consulted it, listed surprising columns, whole armies in fact, of Rodriguezes and Garcias and Fuenteses, with great pompous Christian names, Monserrate, Alejandro, such as he had never heard her use. And talk about pompous names, look at this last guy, Archimedes Zzzyandottie, what on earth. "

-I wonder what names I can muster besides Camilla, Bradley