Sunday, June 12, 2011

Rolling Blackouts

My life just flashed before my eyes.

I’m not sure why I found myself carrying three Rolodex cases downstairs from my home office.  I’d been looking at the two old ones across the room from my desk for years and decided I could do a small decluttering/purging project while I watched TV.  I didn’t realize it was going to be a retrospective of my life.

So, how do you tell when it’s time to toss a Rolodex card?

  • Rolodex?  Are you kidding me? 
  • The card has a phone number with no area code on it. Because you didn’t use to have to dial area codes for local calls (remember?)
  • The person on the card has died, or you think they might have but you’re not sure.
  • It has information on your student loan.  Not your kid’s, yours.
  • It’s for a divine little French restaurant in Georgetown.  From the days of expense account lunches.  RIP (the expense account lunches, not the restaurant).
  • It’s a no-longer-in-service phone number for an old grad school classmate you last saw when she told you she’d gotten a job at “The State Department” (you have to picture the air quotes) and promptly went incognito, never to be found again.
  • It’s the number for the guy you went on your first date with after your divorce.  Well, you thought it was a date; he thought it was just coffee.
  • It’s for your master’s thesis advisor.  Whose specialty was the Cold War.  (Remember the Cold War? Me neither.)  And he’s been dead for years.
  • It’s for Compaq Tech support.  And it’s been 8 years at least since you’ve owned a Compaq.  (Are they even in business still?)
  • It’s for the new cupcake place that opened in town.  Back when you still thought (why?) it was worth three bucks for a cupcake, and still thought it was a good idea for you to eat cupcakes.
  • It’s for the airport shuttle, and quotes the price as $19 (it’s now $27) and says your child (now 23) could ride free.
  • It’s for a manicurist you used to see in your old office building, back when you could afford the time or money for a weekly manicure. 
  • It’s for a favorite store that shut down, a victim of the economic downturn.
  • It’s a list of hours various Northern Virginia public libraries are open.  And you haven’t lived in Northern Virginia since the 1980s.
  • It’s from a telecommunications industry job you used to hold, and is one of a half dozen you have for Ma Bell companies. You know, Illinois Bell, Southern Bell, all those Bells that haven’t rung for about 20 years since the monopoly got broken up, after which all the vigorous competition among the new telecom companies brought us lower prices and great service, right?
  • Likewise, a card with the number for your own phone company, C&P Telephone.
  • It’s for a grocery delivery business, about 20 years pre-Peapod.
  • In the Doctors section of Rolodex cards, cards not only dating back to the OB/GYN who delivered your (now 22-year-old) baby, but back to the student health center at your university.
  • It’s the name and address of the nice couple with a house in the country who adopted your dog when you had to give her up before moving into a condo after you got married.
  • It’s for a plumber who’s the husband of the office manager in one of your doctors’ offices-- against whom you are now filing a complaint with the state Attorney General’s office.
  • It lists all the bookstores you frequent(ed).  Including Common Concerns, The Globe, Crown Books, MysteryBooks and others, may they rest in peace.
  • It’s for the airlines you used most.  And the list includes Eastern Airlines and Braniff.
  • It’s the home phone for the wonderful young intern you had in one of your trade association VP positions.  And he now owns his own company and lives in China. 
  • It’s got the number for a dog walker and dog trainer for a doggie you haven’t had for years. 
Someday I’m sure I’m going to be going through the same process in my Gmail contact list.  For now, history in a box of Rolodex cards has transitioned mostly to history in the “cloud.”  I hope my memories, my history, will be safe there.   


  1. I love this!

    "It’s for a plumber who’s the husband of the office manager in one of your doctors’ offices-- against whom you are now filing a complaint with the state Attorney General’s office."

    You have such a unique way of seeing the world and sharing it with us. Still smiling :)

  2. It takes no time for me to look through my old address book. I don't know who the people are or if I ever called them. That same address book still won't be thrown because I remember the person who used and carried it all the time.