Metro 31

Richard Herring: How is the Yellow Pages still going?

Good old Yellow Pages: Despite the internet, the big directory is still coming through letterboxes, much to Richard Herring's surprise...

Richard Herring This week Richard Herring ponders why the Yellow Pages is still going

I came downstairs to find the Yellow Pages poking through my letterbox. ‘Are you still going?’ I shouted at the jaundiced publication. ‘Haven’t you heard of the internet?’ The Yellow Pages did not respond. It’s not interactive. Though perhaps it was having a subtle and silent dig at me. The book was upside down and maybe those fingers that do the walking were telling me where to go. ‘You’re not helping matters with that kind of crudity,’ I warned the moribund publication.

‘Who are you talking to?’ shouted my wife from upstairs.

‘No one,’ I replied. She hasn’t yet realised the terrible misjudgement she’s made in marrying me so I must keep my brain malady a secret.

I was surprised to see that the directory was still around. Surely the web has made the Yellow Pages more or less redundant to all but the elderly and the Amish? Thirty years ago it was ubiquitous: favoured by teenagers who needed French polishers, small boys who wanted to kiss taller girls and, of course, the ultra-cool, hip and fly, fly-fishing author JR Hartley. Kids had different role models in the 1980s, before Big Brother and The X Factor ensured they would idolise only attention-seeking, talentless morons.

Now it’s a shadow of its former self. The fact it fits through a letterbox demonstrates that. In days gone by the hefty tome was left on your doorstep for foxes to wee on. But now it’s shrunk in every direction. It can’t be long before it’s the Yellow Page.

It’s reduction is good news for any weakling wannabe strongman. Back in the 1970s you’d have to be Geoff Capes to rip one of these babies in half but now even a tired 45-year-old man can bifurcate it with relative ease. And I felt like Hercules as I rent it in twain. And then I threw the two pieces to the ground, roaring like Skeletor and punching the air.

‘What are you doing?’ shouted my wife.

‘Just washing up,’ I called back. She has the rest of her life to discover the magnitude of her error.

Will I regret destroying this xanthic directory? It seems unlikely. One day my boiler might explode at the same time that a power cut knocks out my wi-fi, but my mobile phone has 3G. I suppose a simultaneous nuclear explosion might disable all electronics but would finding a French polisher or a copy of my own out-of-print book be a priority then?

Now I know that not everyone has a computer and the elderly might prefer the old, familiar ways, but it seems wasteful to send these out to absolutely everyone. Couldn’t we have an opt-in system? They could at least make the paper a bit softer. Then I might have a use for it.

Doubtless the Yellow Pages will one day exist only online but don’t be sad. Progress is a good thing: the internet is more efficient and user-friendly and much more difficult for a fox to wee on. Now you can check reviews about any business from other customers and are less likely to be ripped off by cowboys. It’s not like the internet eliminates fraud (I am still waiting for the $1million promised me by an ex-Ugandan prince) but it gives us more choice and can save a lot of time (which we are then free to waste on Twitter, Facebook or pornography).

I feel sorry for the people at the Yellow Pages, really. At least I work in the permanent and indestructible world of print journalism.

See Richard Herring’s reworking of his smash-hit 2002 show Talking Cock: The Second Coming on his nationwide tour. Visit for tickets. Follow Richard on Twitter: @Herring1967

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