A journalist, if he's lucky, gets at most one chance in life to leave a lasting legacy. Jacob Riis exposed the horrors of tenement life. John Hersey limned the agonies that befell individual Japanese when the Enola Gay dropped the first atom bomb. Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein exposed the dark crimes and vile corruption at the heart of the Nixon administration.
And me? If, after my journey is ended through this vale of tears, I should be favored with remembrance, it will likely be for the succor I provided holiday shoppers. It was I who discovered the customer service number for Amazon.com.
In this season of celebration, I have received many e-mails from readers prostrate with gratitude that, like Stanley tramping through the African jungle in search of Livingstone, I dug this number out from the Web's darkest recesses and shared it with the world. I offer it here again for those who didn't think to Google the words "Amazon" and "phone number."
If I have made a difference in people's lives, it is only because I stand on the shoulders of giants. Not finding the customer service number on Amazon's Web site, I clicked through to Amazon's most recent quarterly filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Thank you, President Franklin Roosevelt, for establishing this government agency. The quarterly filing included a general number for Amazon in Seattle, which I dialed. Thank you, Alexander Graham Bell, for inventing the telephone. I asked the Amazon receptionist who answered for a customer service number. Thank you, Amazon receptionist, for providing the information your employer was so reluctant to share. I subsequently learned that a few other Web sites with less reach than Slate had earlier provided Amazon's customer service number as well. Thank you, other Web sites. If the Norwegian Nobel Committee should call me to Oslo, I shall certainly mention your contribution in my acceptance speech.
Let it spread across the land like a prairie fire. Let it peal from a thousand bells. Let it fall like gentle snowflakes. Let it be known, this day, that the customer service number for Amazon is: