My indispensable reference source is the three-volume Encyclopedia of Associations, published by Gale Research and edited by Sandra Jaszczak.

Why? Consider this telephone scenario, a version of which occurs around here at least weekly, and may even be tied to the lunar cycle.

“Uh, I’m not a subscriber but Bud Healey of the NHRAW said you might be able to help me.”

Who could resist that persuasive entreaty? Bud Healey is one of my main suppliers of unwanted queries, right up there with Tony Giometti of ASHRAE and Ed Dooley of ARI, for all of whom I have done favors in the past. “Tom Mahoney’s the expert,” they say.

Thanks a lot, guys. No good deed goes unpunished.

“Fire away,” I say.

“Well, I’m looking for a story you did back in the late 70s about a group that specializes in under-water foundations.”

Would that be salt water or fresh water, I think to myself.

“Ah yes,” I answer smoothly, thumbing through the Encyclopedia, “that would be ADSC, the Association of Drilled Shaft Contractors. Dallas. Phone: 214-343-2091. Scot Litke is the executive director. They meet annually.”

So ends another service to another non-subscriber.

The Encyclopedia’s combined three-volume weight is 19 lb, too heavy for certain staff members to lift but potent enough to come under Arms Reduction talks.

I have not met Ms. Jaszczak, but I would surmise that hers is a life replete with calls from oddball organizations that range from the “Abbot and Costello Fan Club” to “Zonal Electric Comfort Council” (now defunct).

I’m not kidding. Sample these delectable groups among the 23,000 entries:

The Flat Earth Research Society International; Lancaster, CA; Charles K. Johnson, president; membership 3,500. Founded in 1800. Publishes a quarterly newspaper “containing articles decrying modern science for providing a false view of the world.” Sounds reasonable to me.

The Prison Atheist League of America; Austin, TX; Arnold Via, president (assuming he’s still doing time); membership 10,000. Founded in 1979. “Seeks to protect prisoners’ rights to be free from religion.” I’m reminded of Voltaire on his deathbed, asking if he still renounced God. “No, this is not the time to be making new enemies,” he responded.

The Dripps-Drips Family Association; Lincoln, NE; executive director Allen Dripps (who else?). The group researches surnames of Dripps and Drips (what else?).

Truly, there is no interest without an association, no preoccupation without its own newsletter.

(Mahoney is editor-at-large. He can be reached at 248-244-6464;