By Peter and Jean Richards
A few days ago we found in the mailbox at our house in France a heavy cello-wrapped package containing the Annuaires for 2013 — the new telephone directories for the year from France Telecom. They come every March. You get two volumes, the Pages Blancs and the Pages Jaunes — the White Pages for individuals and the Yellow Pages for businesses.
They have a certain Gallic charm, but they are virtually useless, a big waste of paper and not at all an environmental plus. The books are 10¾ inches high and 6¾ inches wide. The Pages Blancs contains 1,008 pages and the Pages Jaunes has 784.
Does anyone still us a telephone directory? We tend to use our computers to find telephone numbers.
The French directories we receive only cover one département, roughly the equivalent of a state in the U.S.A.. All French départements have a number; ours is 17. There are 96 départements in metropolitan France which includes the contiguous ones in mainland Europe and two on the island of Corsica. To find someone in France using the books, if you do not know the address, you would have to peruse 96 telephone directories.
Now, the fun part. The directories are broken down by towns and villages so you have to know the name of the locality where the person lives. There are lots and lots of localities, scads bearing the names of saints. Many of these names are composed of the same saint’s name with a geographical tag. The example we use to illustrate this gives numbers for people in the communities of Saint George de Longuepierre (17470), Saint George des Agoûts (17150) and Saint George des Coteaux (17810). The five-digit number in parentheses after the commune name is the postal code, the first two digits designating the département where it is located, in this case 17 (Charente Maritime),
Also shown is a page from the Yellow Pages to illustrate how one must locate the information for a particular plombier (plumber). There are two listings for plumbers in Saint Laurente de la Prée but only one each for such localities as Saint George des Coteaux, Saint Germain de Marencennes, Saint Germain du Seudre, Saint Hilaire de Villefranche, Saint Jean de Liversay, Saint Léger, Saint Loup, Saint Mard and more.
A bonus included with the new directories was a chéquier (checkbook) containing three coupons for discounts on various services. The first one was for a bride-finding agency, containing a particular orthographic double entendre for those seeking a bride of Slavic heritage.
The phone directories now come in the mail every March. Until a few years ago you had to pick them up at a telephone company office, often several of kilometers from your residence, Our nearest pickup point was 25 kilometers away.
But all this information is on the Internet, where it is considerably easier to find a number or address.
A bit of good news for non-French speaking people is that there is a telephone number for France Telecom for English speakers. The people who answer are very helpful and have always been able to help us solve the problem about which we called.
Copyright © 2013 Peter and Jean Richards