Sunday, June 1, 2008

From Virgin Forest To Doorstep To Curbside Refuse (Surely Dex Knows!)

Photo by John Hoff

About a week ago I went to my property in North Minneapolis and saw a white bag sitting on the ground near the front steps.

"Oh, great," I thought. "Somebody has thrown a bag of garbage on my front steps to pay me back for all my 911 calls on drug dealers..."

My first guess was pretty close. It wasn't EXACTLY a bag of garbage. It was worse. It was a bag of virgin Canadian forests rendered into ridiculous and burdensome phone books, tossed without permission on my doorsteps as an unwelcome burden.

Paper Pulp Pixies of Pure Evil

The wicked phone book trolls-in-trucks had hit many properties in my neighborhood, including some places where we didn't want a vacancy advertised and we had been trying hard to make it look like somebody was watching the property. But now piles of phone books on the steps advertised "Nobody is home. Break in and steal copper plumbing to buy crack."

I went around collecting bunches of the phone books, which I recycled in the lobby of the building where my old publication, Minnesota Daily, has its offices. Jake from 612 Authentic was with to film me doing some of this.

I outlined my reasoning to Jake, like so. Nowadays, people are giving up old-fashioned "land lines" in favor of cell phones. Well, how many cell phone users do you know who cart around 20 pounds of phone books made from virgin Canadian forests? They don't. It's a fact cell phone users are not big into using phone books the size of the old Sears and Roebuck catalog. (Has that gone the way of the dodo bird, yet? Well, it should)

Sure, sometimes the "old school" phone books might prove mildly useful. I think people should have the option of ordering them from the phone company. However, note the picture above. This was taken near a small boarding house near the University of Minnesota.

The day before, I noticed a pile of catalogs on the front porch as I went by. The next day, the phone books were neatly piled at the curb to be recycled. They never even emerged from their plastic bags so the joyful possessor of the new phone books could see the large, slick lawyer advertisements on the back cover.

Dex Doesn't Know Squat

You ever see those commercials about how "Dex knows?" Dex knows everything, supposedly. Dex knows where to find a dentist, a Thai restaurant (with or without pig testes, the other white meat). Dex knows where to get flowers for the wedding anniversary you ALMOST (but not quite forgot)

Dex is apparently quite bright. So why can't Dex figure out nobody wants his piece-of-crap phone books? Why can't Dex tell the difference between an occupied house and empty building periodically occupied by squatters? (Who really have no appreciation for phone books except, perhaps, as emergency toilet paper)

Public Policy Changes Needed

Unwanted phone books dumped on the steps of vacant houses are littering. Period. The policies of our city (and other cities) should reflect this. Phone companies should not be allowed to dump their crap on our front steps. If they won't cease, fine 'em. If they still won't cease, throw them in jail with the crack heads.

Even phone books dumped on the steps of occupied houses are an unwelcome burden in most instances, as illustrated here. And riddle me this: is the City of Minneapolis making money from all that paper pulp? Or is this just a huge strain on the solid waste system? Even if the City of Minneapolis is making money through some quirk in the price of paper pulp, should we be encouraging and allowing this ridiculous waste of the earth's resources?

I'm talking to you, Dex. It's you and me, Mr. Know-It-All phone book spokesperson, and I'm going to knock your block off and make you take back your pile-of-crap phone books from my doorstep, and everybody else's doorstep.

I can have some pity on crack heads, who are drugged out wastoids who simply don't know any better. But you, Dex, advertise yourself as pretty near the smartest guy in America, so why can't you figure this (expletive) (expletive) out?


Kate said...

I'm with ya Johnny. I hate phone books for many reasons (one of the few being that I worked for an advertising that worked exclusively WITH phone book advertising). I think it should be illegal to drop phone books on people's doorstops unless they request one (I couldn't tell you the last time I used a real one... Google text does most of my finger walking for me). I'm not even listed because I only have a cellphone, and I really can't think of anyone else whose phone number I don't know that would be listed either.

Johnny Northside said...

Thanks for the encouraging word. And you've got a great blog, by the way, with lots of original photos.

If you capture any good images of the stuff I'm trying to document in North Minneapolis, feel free to kick some photos my way. (

I'll credit you, of course.

Beth said...

I agree with both of you, as well. I live in an apartment building near the U and came home one night to see piles of the white-bagged phone books outside each of the building's entrances. Tonight, several days later, I don't think a single package of them has been taken inside.

One phone book seems unnecessary, much less two like they're bagged in pairs. And even more so near the U where college students are accustomed to using the internet, including to look up phone numbers.

What can we do to change this?

Marilyn Sue said...

You might have luck contacting the phone book company, not to complain about the phone books, but to let them know that someone in your neighborhood is just dumping them on obviously vacant doorsteps. Tell them you wanted to report that someone is not doing a good job delivering them and they are just being carted away.

I suggest this because I had a phone call once and the phone book company was doing random surveys on their delivery person. They wanted to know if I had gotten the phone book. I get so many and use none of them, ever; so I said "Yes!"

As a child I helped deliver phone books when my mother was doing that and could not leave us home alone. Needless to say I did not grow up pampered! (Not that I was picking cotton, but the books are heavy when you are tiny.)

It was not a good paying job. With the gas expense, my mother figured out she lost money, so she quit after a week. But what are you going to do when your husband doesn't work and you have three kids? She polished up her office skills and got a full-time job.

Johnny Northside said...

I do want to change the situation, but right now it seems like the best thing to do is to keep documenting the problem.

I think the next move, though, would be to contact city council people and ask them to pass an ordinance declaring it "littering" to deliver phone books to houses with "indicia of vacancy" and then the ordinance could list what some of those indicia would be.

I could come up with a lot of indicia like that, based on what I've observed. Other folks could, too.

Write your city council person and send them a link to this blog entry. Also, no sense limiting it to Minneapolis. This is really a national problem.

Kate said...

Thanks for the compliment, I will definitely take some pictures in North eventually... once I grow the balls. We just bought a house in NE and I get crazy looks from people as it is. But one day, I promise.

In regards to tagging... have you seen this site?

might be helpful in knowing what you're painting over :)

Johnny Northside said...

That's a very useful website. I'm going to create another link to that in a blog entry...quite soon, in fact.

In regard to "growing some balls," (an unfortunate metaphor implying courage is only a male quality) why don't you try doing it gradually?

You can stay in your car and shoot some pictures from your car window at first. After a while you'll probably feel brave enough to venture out. If you can document what's going on up here, I'd be happy to give you another forum for your great photos.

Kate said...

Johnny, you become better by the minute. True, "growing balls" is an unfortunate implication it takes a man to do these things... but I also enjoy saying it... perhaps because I am one woman amongst 9 men in my field? Anyway, pictures of the good old North side will be taken, and they will be yours to post!