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My Turn: The waning days of address book ownership

I stopped at an office supply store the other day to buy a new address book. The book I had used for years and diligently updated whenever old acquaintances had either departed this neighborhood or, sadly, this earth was now tattered and torn.

The store had no address books. I figured they were just out temporarily and went on to a bigger office supply store. They didn’t have any either. Suspicious now that I had hit upon some catastrophic event that had somehow extinguished the world’s supply of address books, I approached the customer service desk, and questioned a young salesperson.

“Where are your address books?” I asked.

“Address books? We don’t carry them, no one buys them anymore,” he said rather smugly.

I did finally locate an address book, one of just a few stowed away on a back table in a small specialty shop. The proprietress informed me that, yes, it is true: address books are relics of a bygone era. She said people today text, they email, they Skype . . . they tweet.

Address books, it seems, are a vestige of a time when people sat down at a writing table or a desk and penned actual heartfelt messages to one another, messages that required words and feelings that could not be expressed with a simple heart-shaped emoji to your BFF. Address books? What’s an address book?

At my age — old — it is only natural to fondly look back, perhaps “backward” is a more apt term, to a time when things were simpler. I recall that in grammar school we studied penmanship. My grandchildren have never studied penmanship, they only know the word because I have spoken about it. They use the computer to write anything that requires more than five or six words. To my mind, they are missing something.

I can boast that as a result of all that early training, I have very legible, even handsome, penmanship. Not infrequently when I have written something out, even simply signed my name, people will remark on my handwriting. I’m not certain whether they find it good-looking or merely bizarre. What would our beloved Declaration of Independence have looked like if none of our founding fathers had been able to sign their signatures with such a dramatic and impressive flourish?

The whole address-book issue is indicative of so much in today’s fast-moving society. All things are done at warp speed, and lingering over a word, a phrase, a thought, taking time to write it down in longhand; longhand — there’s another term from the past — is no longer practical. My grandchildren would lose out if they were not able to compete as quickly and efficiently as they do. Their lives demand that they keep up and excel, and taking a pen to a yellow, lined pad is simply not going to cut it. The only yellow writing paper they know is in the form of a Post-it note . . . LOL.

So, what’s the point? Today’s ways and means are a necessity in today’s world. People my age have to understand and accept that. And, while I still pay my bills by snail mail and prefer shopping at the mall to ordering via Amazon, even I must admit I find the computer more efficient for things such as composing this “My Turn” piece. I wrote it on on my Apple. I obviously have one foot in the future and the other lagging behind in the past.

But, I can’t help feeling a bit nostalgic and in a way wishing that those far younger than I could know the luxury of sitting under a large, shade tree on a summer’s day, taking out a pen and a piece of old-fashioned stationery and writing their thoughts, their joys, their worries to an old friend who has moved away. Now if I can only find their new address here in my address book.

Ellen Mitchell,


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