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NUMBER, PLEASE...

8 January 2002

Remember how nice it used to be when to call someone all you had to dial was 7 numbers. Heck, I remember back when I was a kid when you had 2 letters and 5 numbers. Our phone number was PRospect 5-8792. Lord don't ask me how I remember that.

First the nice little word beginnings to telephone numbers got replaced by numbers. No longer the fun of PRospect, but now just boring old 77. I have a friend whose number of JUniper 7-xxxx. I never have bothered to learn what numbers replace JU. In my mind, I'm still dialing JU.

But now they've taken this numbers business entirely too far.

I'm particularly sensitive to it today because it seems like I've spent the entire day punching numbers on a keyboard--and I wasn't doing the bookkeeping either.

Dr. G uses Working Assets as his long distance carrier and so any time I make a long distance call, I dial 7 numbers before I even start the phone number. Then there's the "1" to indicate long distance, then the area code, and then finally the number.

For some reason today my brain decided to become dyslexic and I simply could not get all the digits in the right place. I was dialing a fax machine and with inadvertently reversing the last two digits and hitting the wrong keys when dialing it in on the fax machine, I probably hit a hundred keys before I finally connected with the other fax machine. And that was only one call. I had a stack of calls to make and kept getting screwed up for one reason or the next. I thought I'd get carpal tunnel symptoms just from dialing the damn telephone. (I just realized that "dial" is another one of those dying words, like "record" (meaning a vinyl disk with music on it). Does anybody actually DIAL a telephone number any more? No. All we do is punch the numbers in.)

This evening, Dr. G was telling me how to check the bank for deposits and debits. When he finished, I counted the numbers and it involves punching in 30 numbers before you ever get to the reason you were dialing in the first place.

It doesn't get any better when you've finally connected. First there is the "welcome to...listen to your options" message. (Is there any business left whose menu options haven't changed in the last three months?)

Used to be you could bypass all those options and get to an operator faster by hitting zero. But they caught on to that little ploy. Kinda like when the post office stopped delivering envelopes without postage on them and collecting at the other end. (So many of us used that passive protest against high rates for telephone and utilities, but no more.) Now if you hit zero, it just brings you back to the beginning again, along with the annoying scold. "I'm sorry. That is not a valid selection." You have to play a guessing game to see if "5" will get you the operator, or maybe it's "8," or maybe "2."

Cell phones are a whole 'nothing ball game entirely. I don't understand cell phones. Which is perhaps why I don't use one, except in dire emergencies. (I also think it's the height of rudeness to be talking on your cell phone in a restaurant, on the bus, or wherever.) What I don't understand is why if I were to stand in my own house, next to my house phone, and hold my cell phone in my hand and dial my house phone, I have to pay long distance charges.

Really!

The reason for this is that when we got our cell phones, we were part of the vast 916 area code which encompassed most of California north of the San Francisco Bay Area. But then they started running out of phone numbers, so they broke the area up into a bunch of smaller area codes and now our area code is 530. But the cell phone remains 916 because that's what it was originally. So if I want to call myself (I frequently talk to myself, but fortunately rarely on the telephone), I have to pay long distance charges to do it.

I'm afraid numbers are here to stay and I might as well get used to them. But I sure would like to be able to just dial a simple telephone number and get a human being on the end of the line when the two phones connect.

But there is positive news in the other numbers game. Those of you who have been following my struggles to tame the wild checkbook will be happy to know that I am creeping ever closer to finding all the problems. I've eliminated the possibility that I accidentally entered two deposits twice, unfortunately (that would have been such an easy fix), but I'm finding a few big ticket expenses that didn't get entered and perhaps by the time I've gone through everything, we'll finally be where we should be--in the red. Well, we shouldn't be in the red, of course, but the figures that we know to the best of our ability had us in the red this morning. Fortunately that was before a humongous check got deposited, which should put us in good shape for awhile yet.

I'll be working on that tomorrow, assuming I don't have to spend all day punching numbers on the telephone key pad.

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