By Hannah Reich Berman

Being a kindly soul with a good heart, I feel duty-bound to alert people to certain perils. Not for the first time, I am issuing a public-service message to all those with a penchant for neatness. Here it is, in a nutshell: If you have a messy phonebook, do not attempt to redo it. And if you cannot resist the urge to redo your personal book (this message of course does not refer to the public directory), be sure not to toss the old one. Hide it if you must, but under no circumstances should you throw it out.

No longer could I stand the sight of my messy phone/address book. I decided to get a new one and copy only those numbers that remain pertinent in my life today. It was a mistake! Sadly, a good many of the entries in my old book contained names of people who have long since passed on. Whenever someone dies, I cross out the name. I need to do that because, on the outside chance that I might speak to the spouse of the deceased, I may well forget that her husband (or his wife) is no longer living.

Many years ago, my friend Peggy got in touch with a distant cousin that she hadn’t spoken with in quite some time. “How are you Sallie, and how is Marvin?” she asked. At that point Sallie answered, “Marvin died four years ago, Peggy. You were at the funeral.” The next thing Peggy heard was the dial tone. Sally had hung up! For that reason, and because my memory is nothing to write home about, I always cross out the name of the deceased.

Then there are people who have moved, and people who have remained at the same address but have, for some reason, had their phone number changed. In cases such as those, I squeeze the new number or the new address into an unimaginably small space, as close to the original information as I can get. Additionally, my personal phonebook was filled with names of people I no longer knew. Those too had been crossed out. All of this makes for a messy phonebook.

As any member of my family and my close friends will attest, I don’t handle “messy” very well. For that reason, on a recent day when I was home awaiting the arrival of a repairman, I took out the new phonebook I had purchased and decided to give it my best shot. I even took the time and trouble to talk to myself before I sat down. I warned myself to go slow and to be sure I did not cross out or eliminate any name or information I might still need. But looking at the pristine new book with its still blank white pages did something to me. I was determined to keep the names I would enter to a minimum.

Another reason that my (original) phonebook was overfilled was my less-than-stellar filing system. A gentleman by the name of Lenny Koegel sells, installs, and repairs window coverings. The name of his company is Distinctive Window Fashions, and I have been doing business with him for a long time. The problem is that he was listed in my book no less than six times. That is not a misprint. I listed him under D for Distinctive, L for Lenny, K for Koegel, W for window covering, B for blinds, and S for shades. No wonder my book was filled to overflowing! I list under first names, last names, husbands’ names, and wives’ names. As Hubby often said, “Hannah, your system is nothing less than a work of art.”

Determined not to repeat the same mistake, I slashed and cut names, addresses, and phone numbers, until less than one quarter of the old names appeared in my lovely new book. Unfortunately, I inadvertently eliminated a substantial amount of information that I still need. I obliterated every listing I had for Lenny Koegel because I was sure that I had listed him elsewhere. Less than a week later, when I needed to have a shade repaired, there was not a single listing for him. He went from six to zero in one sitting! Apparently all that talking that I did to myself was wasted. I do okay with talking to myself but am not too good in the listening department.

But I did find his number, albeit not in my phonebook. I didn’t take the time or trouble to look in the Long Island directory, and I spent no money calling Information. Instead, I saved my pennies, took the lazy way out, and called one of my daughters who also does business with him. Once I got the number, I relisted him in my book. And I’m proud to say I listed him only once. Now all I have to do in the future is remember how I listed him.

It doesn’t end there. The gentleman who services my sprinkler system is Jimmy Draga. I had him under J for Jimmy, D for Draga, S for sprinkler, and W for water. I left him under S, but when I realized he had not yet turned my water on and went to my phonebook to call him, I went to W and freaked out because he wasn’t listed there and I had no way to reach him as I don’t know anyone else who uses him. Then I remembered my “old” system, and organized a search party of one! I hunted for him and discovered that I had listed him (as planned) only once, under S. To the average person, this may seem like a no-brainer. To me it presents a problem. Apparently I am not average.

In conclusion, my advice to those who share my propensity for strange behavior is as follows: Never copy over your phonebook. And if you can’t resist the urge to do it, be sure to keep the original. That’s the way it is! v

Hannah Berman lives in Woodmere and is a licensed real-estate broker associated with Marjorie Hausman Realty. She can be reached at or 516-902-3733.


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