Lament for the Death of Phone Numbers

I got a new phone yesterday. It’s been three years since I moved to this small town and there’s really no point maintaining my Toronto number any longer. (1) It totally confuses people here — and likely irritates them — when I give a 416 area code. (2) I have few personal connections to the city anymore and so my sentimental attachment to the number has dissipated. (3) It’s too expensive to maintain a comprehensive long-distance plan. Surprisingly, by switching my outdated ‘dumb’ phone for a swanky ‘smart’ phone, I’ll be saving $20 a month. That was the deal-breaker.

I spent some time manually transferring my contacts from my old phone to my new one, and you know what? It made me feel sad. For a few split seconds, I was able to catch a glimpse of the numbers I dial and text on a regular basis, but they were quickly saved behind the names of my friends, never to be seen again. It made me miss the days of my childhood when a phone number — just a collection of random numbers — seemed to take on meaning. I memorized phone numbers, kept a whole list of them in my head. Those numbers were associated with the people who owned them. I can still remember the numbers of my two best friends, Emily and Jessica, and I’ll never forget my Grandma Johnson’s phone number, even though she’s been dead for thirteen years. One problem with storing numbers behind names is that I’m left in a real predicament if my phone battery runs out because I don’t know any numbers by heart anymore. I’d only be able to call my husband and my parents.

photo: calgary-city-maps.com
photo: calgary-city-maps.com

The next step is to cancel my old number, which I’ll do this afternoon. While I’ve alerted a few people to the change, I’m not too worried about what people will do if they try my old number unsuccessfully because I know they’ll be able to find me again, via email or Facebook or my blog… which made me feel nostalgic again. Remember the days when a phone number was viewed as precious and needed to be guarded? That slip of paper containing a person’s number was invaluable and heaven forbid if I lost it. I might never talk to that person again! Nowadays, it doesn’t matter. There are so many ways to track down a person that it’s almost impossible to lose anyone anymore, which has its pros and cons. Sometimes it would be nice to disappear completely.

At least the recent addition of a landline will counterbalance the arrival of smartphones in our household. For most of my calls, I’ll still have to flip through the awfully-designed local phone book (or, admittedly, just Google it) and punch in a number. I intend to enjoy the process fully.

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2 thoughts on “Lament for the Death of Phone Numbers

  1. Good for you for at least having a few numbers memorized (husband, parents). If I couldn’t access my ‘smarter than me’ phone I’d be able to call my parents house only because they’re number has not changed in my lifetime!

  2. Long is the time when the first two numbers in a phone had an alphabet like 525-2511 (JA{ckson} 5-2511). This year our “Bell” phone book is one quarter the size it used to be. Now that people use other than Ma Bell as their service provider. Technology changes and so does the monopoly and the cost.

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