A new phone book landed on my driveway last week, and no, this is not a rerun of a column I wrote in 2004.

First thought: Perhaps there's a very small time portal in the snowbank; I should stick around and see if anything else comes out. Beanie Babies, maybe, or Pet Rocks.

My next thought: Surprising that the printing company didn't deliver it straight to the recycling plant. I mean, a phone book? In 2021? I can look at my phone and say, "Hey Siri, find the phone number for the veterinarian," and the phone will say, "I didn't find Vitter O'Narian in your contacts." Then you google it, so google can send you ads for six months about home kits for expressing your dog's glands.

I decided to bring it inside, like the poor foundling it is. Give it some attention, make it feel wanted — if just for a while. There's always the classic phone book questions: Who's first, and who's the last?

You can tell which companies still believe in phone book nomenclature, because they're named AAAA-AA-AAuto Body, or something like that. It gives them a leg up on AAA-AA-Auto Body. The phone company probably has rules about this, or the first page would just look like people getting throat exams.

Well, the first entry in this year's book: A.

That's all. Just A. There's an address. It's a strip mall. None of the businesses have the phone number in the listing. I called the number, hoping I'd reach a booking agency for professional Fonzie impersonators. Aaaaaaaay!

No. Just a recording offering car towing. Shouldn't have been surprised. The White Pages are now Business & Government listings, so if you see a real name, it's someone's professional address. It's no longer a compendium of your fellow citizens.

When I was growing up, nearly everyone was in the phone book. It seemed almost antisocial if you weren't. If you had an unlisted number, you probably were a spy. The idea that you could pay the phone company to keep your number private revealed a world of shadowy adult corruption where money talked, so no one talked to you.

When the new phone book came out, you looked up your number, and then the number of your crush. It had the address and everything. Just looking at it felt like knocking on her door, and you blushed.

I suppose this is the part where I should lament the passage of something everyone was used to and berate its modern soulless replacement. But, no. Oh, sure, the phone book was a visual summation of the city, a reminder that we were all in this together but also strangers — your entry was preceded and followed by people you didn't know, yet you touched shoulders in the great Book of the City.

But this is like romanticizing a big stone you had to store and drag out from time to time for consultation. They are relics without romance. What I really need is a big book that has one entry: my wife's phone number. That's it. I have it programmed in my phone, but I couldn't name it if you had a gun to my head.

Guns, by the way, are on page 132, between Guitars and Gutters. I'll say that for the phone book: Where else can you find Guitars, Guns and Gutters? Besides a country-western lyric.

james.lileks@startribune.com • Twitter: @Lileks