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1st and Last Place in New Phone Book Are Just an Alphabet Apart

April 19, 1993|JAMES MAIELLA JR. | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

David J. Zyskowski is last again.

"I'm used to being last. It's more the unusual case where I'm not last," said Zyskowski, 38, a Port Hueneme resident since 1984. "There was like one year in college, there was a guy named Zywar and I was not last."

Zyskowski's yardstick is the telephone book. In this case, the Pacific Bell Smart Yellow Pages.

This month, 386,000 copies of the yellow-and-black, 2 1/2-inch-thick 1993 edition are being circulated throughout the county, and Zyskowski is again the final listing in the book's white pages--down from second to last in the 1992 book.

"I guess this means my crank calls are going to go back up again," Zyskowski said. "There seems to be this group of American youth who seem to get some thrill out of calling the last person in the phone book."

A world away from Zyskowski is A & A Mortgage Co. of Westlake Village, which opened shop about six months ago and has debuted in the coveted first position on the first page of the white pages.

George Shen, owner of the business, which specializes in home refinancing and mortgage services, said he selected the company name in hopes of positioning himself as close to the top of the list as possible.

The name, he said, "doesn't mean anything. I purposely did that. I know they go by alphabetics, so I put the two A's together."

Most of the first three pages of the white page listings, about 700 individual entries, are of businesses beginning with the letter A, sometimes two A's, sometimes six A's in a row.

Bob Johnson, a listing service product manager for Pacific Bell, said that when companies wage war in the Yellow Pages to be the first listing in each specific category, the cumulative result is pages of A's in the white pages.

Johnson explained the time-tested formula used to determine the critical phone book placement.

"There is a fairly sophisticated sorting routine," he said. "When one or more single letters are used at the beginning of a business name, each single letter is considered a separate word. So a single letter of A processes prior to two A's. So when you have A and A, that would be classified as two single words and would process before AA."

This year's book boasts 60 separate business that begin with the term A-1, and several ungrammatical double-A configurations, including, A Accurate Telephone Answering Service, A Ace Pest & Termite Control and A Action Key Safe & Locksmith's.

"These listings do have to be the legitimate name of the business," said Linda Bonniksen, a Pacific Bell spokeswoman.

"I couldn't have a free-lance business called Linda Bonniksen Marketing, where that was the name I used on my business cards and my business license . . . and then come to Pacific Bell and say I wanted to be listed as A A A A Marketing."

Oh no?

The sixth listing in this year's white pages is A Aaaaa Bcalvy 24 Hour Carpet Fire Carpet Water Damage Specialist. Call the number and you're likely to hear the words "world restoration" through the receiver.

World restoration? What happened to A Aaaaa?

"We only use that name for listing purposes," said Cyndi Baker, an employee of the firm specializing in water- and fire-damage restoration. "Basically, it's to get as near to the top of the (Yellow Pages) category as possible."

Asked to comment on the A Aaaaa phenomenon, Bonniksen offered the following admission: 'We take a great deal of information from our customers on faith."

Each phone book weighs about four pounds--meaning that more than 1.5 million pounds of books will be distributed throughout the county this year by Pacific Bell alone.

Recycling efforts are under way in all of Ventura County's 10 cities to divert as many old books as possible from landfills. It is estimated that every ton of phone books recycled saves the equivalent of 17 trees, 7,000 gallons of water and 380 gallons of oil in the paper-manufacturing process.

The recycling programs, coordinated by the Ventura County Solid Waste Management Department, collected 235 tons of outdated phone books in 1992.

For Zyskowski's part, being last again has its advantages.

"You can tell people, 'If you need my number, just open the phone book to the end and look for the last name,' " he said. "You don't have to worry about scanning through 35 Smiths and remember the initial or anything."

Hot on Zyskowski's heels in this year's book--at the next-to-last listing--is Steve P. Zysk, of Oxnard. Zysk was third from last in 1992.

Zysk, 81, still remembers that year in the late 1970s when he managed, by a twist of fate, to come in last. He is still scarred from the experience.

"I was last once, long ago," he said. "I got a lot of phony calls from kids, telling me I was the last one in the phone book. I just told them, 'So what?' "

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