Mexican standoff at the phone directory 2 August 2014
The Yellow Pages landed on my doorstep. Things just got worse.
I heard a thump, and I feared the worst.
I dared not open the door. But I was only delaying the inevitable.
Eventually, somewhere in the late end of a cool Sunday afternoon, I peaked outside. Sure enough, in tightly wrapped plastic, were six volumes of the dreaded Yellow Pages.
I live in a ground-floor flat in a block of six. We’re mostly a friendly bunch.
There’s a lovely Indian upstairs who works as a pastry chef. I do enjoy the freebies he brings by. And there’s a young couple who are friendly to my kids. We’ve even invited each other over for a cuppa on a cold day.
But the day those directories landed, things turned ugly.
Where once there were neighbourly smiles, now replaced by eyes averted.
Why the change? What curse had that delivery brought with it?
In this digital age, where online search is ubiquitous, those paper-based directories are all but redundant.
For some reason I do keep one tucked next to the fridge. Is it my emergency step-stool? Scrap paper? A door-stop? I’ve never opened it to a single page, but I keep it nonetheless.
But one copy is more than enough.
So on a cool blustery Sunday, I stood outside my door, face-to-face with the Indian pastry chef and the young woman from upstairs.
The stack of directories lay between us. I looked at the Indian; he glanced at the woman; she held me firm in her gaze. No one moved; no one flinched. No one wanted to put the books in the bin.
It was our own Mexican standoff. If I reached for the books, the woman would see me and feel ashamed, thus leaving the Indian to walk off scott-free. If someone moved, someone else would win.
I watched the Indian intently. I thought of those sweets he brought me and my kids.
And then I did it. I took a dive. I took the proverbial bullet to the chest.
“Well, I guess these are for the bin,” I declared, bending down and picking up the directories.
That was it. Deed done. No one said a word. We each went our own way and seemed to exist in our own micro-universes that day.
And that evening, another thump outside my door. This time I smiled. This time I opened the door straight away. A large packet of freshly baked croissants.
Thank you my Indian friend. I may have taken a blow that day, but sometimes there are just desserts.
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