Equal 19 cents? The answer was found in an...

WHEN DOES $1.50

May 22, 1993

WHEN DOES $1.50 equal 19 cents? The answer was found in an insert attached to the phone bills of C&P Telephone Co. that customers received a couple of months ago.

The number of free calls that residential customers can make to directory assistance was reduced from 12 calls to six, effective Jan. 23. Calls above the six permitted cost 25 cents each. So, if you still make 12 directory assistance calls a month, you are billed an extra $1.50.

But consumers will benefit from cutting this service in half, the phone company explains. "The savings realized by this reduced allowance, $.19 per line, are reflected in the new rates for residence customers," the C&P insert explained.

In other words, it only cost C&P 19 cents (less than the charge for a 411 call) to provide six free directory information calls. But now it's charging $1.50 for that service.

Before contacting your public servants to complain of this overcharge, you should be aware that the General Assembly approved this cost-accounting alchemy last year and the state Public Service Commission authorized the rate change.

The legislative intent was to cut down on some subscribers' overuse of directory assistance instead of looking up the numbers themselves in the phone book. Never mind that almost a quarter of the residential numbers are unpublished in the book; a call for an unlisted number counts the same as others.

* * *

APRIL'S issue of the American Journalism Review, published in College Park, contains a story on "zines" -- pronounced ZEENS, short for "fanzines," which is short for "fan magazines." Zines are the home-grown, no-holds-barred publications put out by all sorts of clever desktop publishers.

The article describes some of the wilder zines out there:

* The Optimistic Pezzimist: Published by and for devotees of the candy known as Pez. Special emphasis is given to Pez dispensers, such as the Bullwinkle-head model recently sold for $122.50.

* Voices From Spirit: A four-page zine whose highlight is an interview with a dead celebrity. Recent issues included Q&As with Merlin the Magician and Marilyn Monroe.

* Opuntia: Editor Dale Speirs, a middle-aged tree cutter, offers some chatty information about his stamp collection and his job.

* Hossatopia: A now-defunct zine whose mission was unabashed worship of Hoss Cartwright from the TV Western, "Bonanza." It lasted one issue.

* Geraldo Must Die!: Also defunct after one issue, GMD! railed against TV talk shows.

* City Limits Gazette: This publication looks for dark, hidden messages in the comic strip "Family Circus," drawn by Bill Keane.

With desktop publishing just now taking off, the number of zines could soar. Especially the truly zany.

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