Rendered Speechless

Those of you who have followed our blog are aware of the rather “interesting” proposals or pitches we receive. After so many years of doing this, it is almost hard to be surprised. Until a recent telephone exchange.

Me: This is Steve Laube.
Caller: How do I go about getting an idea to your company?
Me: Have you looked at our website? It’s all laid out there for anyone to follow.
Caller: No. What website?
Me: (???) How did you find this number to call?
Caller: You are in the phone book.
Me: [[stunned silence]]

I couldn’t reply with anything more than some stumbling comment like “You’ll need to look up the information.”
Caller: Thanks, Dude.

Dude? May I write “LOL” at that farewell?
I was too flummoxed by the phone book reference. What phone book? It’s been years since I’ve seen one. You can buy a “vintage” 1994 phone book on eBay for $100. The “phone book” has all but been scrubbed from our vocabulary!

I suspect the caller had done a Google search for agents in Arizona and just called a number they found (and called it a phone book). It happens rather frequently despite attempts to scrub that phone number off the Internet. I know the writers who use this method are well-meaning and simply don’t know. I try not to be annoyed by it (not always successfully).

It made me think about how our language and communication continue to change at a rapid pace. It seems like yesterday when having a separate phone line for a fax machine was critical to one’s business. Today one doesn’t even need a scanner to scan a document; you can simply use a free scanning app on your smartphone.

My point? It doesn’t take much to present the semblance of being businesslike. A little research and you can avoid being an object lesson in an editor or agent’s next blog post.

When was the last time you were startled by a reference to something innocuous in a conversation?

21 Responses to Rendered Speechless

  1. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser November 15, 2021 at 5:26 am #

    Miles outside the nearest dorp,
    the old ways seem to fit.
    I’m living in a timeless warp
    and that’s the way I like it.
    I fix things when they get all broke,
    make do with what’s on hand.
    No Netflix? That is not a yoke,
    it helps to make life grand.
    My rifles all have wooden stocks,
    made by me with care;
    not yet black powder flintlocks,
    but friend, I’m getting there,
    turning these bright shining days
    to a refuge for the old-school ways.

  2. Nora November 15, 2021 at 5:28 am #

    Believe it or not, I sometimes still see old fashioned phone books. It has been a couple of years though since one was delivered to the house.

    For me it’s a total waste of paper. For my 75-year-old mother-in-law, it’s still useful.

    I would think that a writer of any age would be at least that text heavy to not need one.

    But apparently, there it is.

    • Nora November 15, 2021 at 5:30 am #

      One day I’m going to learn to proofread whenever I use voice to text. Lol. That should read tech savvy not text heavy.

  3. Jennifer Hallmark November 15, 2021 at 5:35 am #

    We still receive a phone book each year. (In Alabama) It’s mostly businesses but there are landline numbers too. My grands don’t have a clue what it is 😂

  4. Pam Halter November 15, 2021 at 6:50 am #

    A friend on FB shared a write up she saw for an Escape Room. One of the puzzles to be solved was a rotary phone and a number to dial. The instructions said the players had 20 minutes to figure it out!

    Bahahahaha! Are our kids today really that unable to figure out how to dial a phone? I mean, Fisher Price still has their toy rotary phone, right? Maybe?

    I’ll check. Be right back.

    Yep, they still have it. It’s called Chatter-Telephone.

    • Susan Donetti November 15, 2021 at 1:50 pm #

      Ellen DeGeneres had this as a test on one of her shows. It was hysterical. They had no clue how to use the rotary phone. One young lady dialed the number before she took the receiver off the cradle! And don’t get me started on how well they handled paper maps!

  5. Michael November 15, 2021 at 8:35 am #

    Here in Helena, Montana we get phone books every year. They are stacking up because I don’t use them. $100.00 on Ebay? I’m sitting on a gold mine!

    • Steve Laube November 15, 2021 at 8:49 am #

      I suspect the cost of printing the white pages for Phoenix with a population of 2.5 million would be a tad more expensive than for Helena, Montana. LOL!

      Plus the Yellow Pages were just as large as the White Pages!

  6. Kay DiBianca November 15, 2021 at 9:31 am #

    You should have asked him what the idea was that he wanted to “get” to your company. I bet it was a doozey.

  7. Bill Bethel November 15, 2021 at 9:39 am #

    There are times I wish I had a phone book to look up someone’s address and phone number; internet searches often withhold information unless you subscribe or pay a fee.

    Fifteen to twenty years ago I was in the office of an environmental research group at a university in Texas. A student worker was going through a desk and found a slide rule. To my surprise, she didn’t know what it was. The older secretary (that may not be the politically correct title) said, “That’s nothing. She doesn’t even know what a rotary phone is.”

    • Kay DiBianca November 15, 2021 at 2:48 pm #

      She probably doesn’t know what an ironing board is either. 🙂

  8. Sharon K Connell November 15, 2021 at 10:35 am #

    Steve, does it ever make you want to give up being an agent and become a fiction writer? Oh the stories you could tell. LOL

  9. Bill Hendricks November 15, 2021 at 12:53 pm #

    It’s not a convo, but I deal with what I think you mean by “innocuousness” every year in filling out and filing the W-2s and a W-3 for my small business. First I have to go to the IRS’ website and order—yes, ORDER!—printed copies of W-2s and a W-3, and have them mailed—yes, as in SNAIL MAILED!—to my address. Then in order to fill out the form and have copies for the Federal, State, Local, business, and individual levels, I have to type—yes, as in TYPEWRITER type!—the information on a multi-layer template document using carbon paper—yes, CARBON PAPER!. Then I mail—yes, as in SNAIL MAIL—the IRS its copies of the forms. I don’t know if that ordeal and its associated paraphernalia define the meaning of “innocuous,” but it certainly joins your phone book story as an illustration of how Uncle Sam governs anachronistically. Carbon paper?!?!

    • Steve Laube November 15, 2021 at 2:08 pm #

      For my small businesses I spent the money to buy the Office Supply store forms so I could use the laser printer.

      But now each year for 1099s I use an online service that simplifies the entire process.

      Unfortunately no one tells us about these services and trusting Mr. Google and it’s recommendations is a gamble. But fortunately I have some friends who are accountants for small businesses and they let me know their secrets. >LOL<

  10. Laura Christianson November 15, 2021 at 1:29 pm #

    Several authors have told me how difficult it is to remember the “new” rule about leaving one space after end punctuation in a typed piece. Most of the style guides officially made the shift in the late 20th century (Chicago Manual of Style held out until 2003).

    • Steve Laube November 15, 2021 at 2:09 pm #

      Oh my. As you said, that changed a LOOOOOOONG time ago. I’ll admit having to relearn the habit in the early 90s but it didn’t take that long to fix the muscle memory.

  11. Sheri Dean Parmelee, Ph.D. November 15, 2021 at 1:37 pm #

    I was shocked when my son David got a rejection letter that was obviously a form letter. It started “Dear Charles.” I got a rejection letter from a college to which I applied for a faculty position. It had so many errors that I almost marked it up and returned it……I didn’t do so, thinking it might look like sour grapes.

    • Steve Laube November 15, 2021 at 2:09 pm #

      Like receiving a proposal to the agency where the salutation is not me but an agent at another agency?

      Even in email this happens. A lot.

  12. Rachelle L Gardner November 15, 2021 at 1:59 pm #

    That’s so funny… and so familiar! It made me laugh to think that you could have told the guy, “We don’t deal in ideas. If you have a completed book proposal and/or a manuscript, go to our website to learn how to submit.”

    I mean… an idea??? That’s funny. How about you pitch me a dozen ideas and I’ll give you a dime?

    • Steve Laube November 15, 2021 at 2:12 pm #


      Okay… you didn’t even pay the guy a “penny for your thoughts!” 12 ideas for 10 cents!

      No kidding. Imagine, “Hey, do you have a minute? I’d like to run an idea past you.” And then they get enthused and breathlessly tell you the story of their entire novel in detail.

      When that happens (more often in a writers conference pitch) I have to remind them that I haven’t read anything yet. They may be a fine storyteller, but how they express the story in writing is rather critical.

  13. Kristen Joy Wilks November 15, 2021 at 2:28 pm #

    Ha ha! Well, I hate to tell you this Steve, but we get a new phone book every year in our area. There is always a stack of them at the post office. I always ask my husband to get one for me, and then he and our 3 teenage sons laugh at me for using a phone book, ha! They are great for finding ideas for character names and stuff, too!

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