The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Monday, April 12, 2004  

Another Slap in the Face for Philadelphia

The original and still primary area code for Philadelphia is 215. Yes, one of those old-fashioned area codes with a “1” or a “0” in the middle, and neither a “1” nor a “0” on the end, and a code also comprised of very low numbers, signifying, if anything, that Philadelphia was a (very) major metropolitan center when the use of area codes first was introduced.

I suspect at that time Philadelphia, which was once the largest city in the U.S., was then the nation’s third-largest city, a standing that since has been lowered to fourth and then fifth, the latter downward movement fully classifiable as a degradation since Philadelphia gave up the number-four spot to a perennial candidate for the title “armpit of the universe,” namely, Houston. [Ed.: Note to self: You’re going to get mail.]

Worse, that horrible amalgamation of tract housing, tacky developments, “incorporations,” and the like that constitutes what is known as “Phoenix,” is now hot on our heels to assume the number-five position. [Ed.: Note to self: You’re going to get mail.]

Oh, the humanity!

But I digress. (As I often do.)

Anyway, like much of the county, Philadelphia some time ago was assigned a second area code, 267, to handle the demand for new phone lines given the proliferation of home and office PCs, cell phones, fax machines, and pagers.

Even before that, the suburbs, along with nearby smaller cities, including Reading, Allentown, Bethlehem, and Easton, were given their own area code, 610, which since has been expanded to include, at last check, 484 and 835.

Southern New Jersey, just across the Delaware River, which for decades was just 609, is now 609 and 856.

I can’t remember when (and yes, I know I could look it up), but at some recent point the powers that be assigned Philadelphia a third area code, 445. A third friggin’ area code. (Yet another one, that as “states” like North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming, as desolate as some parts of North Philadelphia, still get to have their very own -- single -- area codes, because, I assume, they are, in fact, as desolate as some parts of North Philadelphia.) [Ed.: Note to self: You’re going to get mail. In this case, though, probably very little.]

Great, I thought: more numbers to write down.

Not a big deal, I know, three whole (and I mean that, whole) numbers. But to someone like me, born, as I’ve mentioned in the past, 40 years too early, someone who misses the days of a caller leaving a message that began with something like, “I’m at KLondike5-####” -- which some readers will remember from “I Love Lucy,” and note the exchange matches Hollywood’s still tried-and-true “555” -- a pining made all the more strange and inexplicable since the practice was abandoned before I was born. (I can barely express how pleased I was, upon first moving to New York, that I could tell people my phone number was UPper West 7-####.)

And so, as you can imagine, the proposed or intended introduction of the 445 area code to Philadelphia phone users was a significant life event for me.

That was then. This is now.

Now, I’m angry. I’m angry because my latest bill from Verizon Communications Corp. includes, among a billing detail that reveals several unusually long conversations with a certain Maine blogger, a page that reads, in relevant part:

Thanks to telephone number conservation measures, the proposed addition of new telephone area code 445 to the 215 and 267 Philadelphia codes has been postponed indefinitely.

Now I feel ripped off. What kind of a city are we? Just two area codes? Philadelphia is a two-area-code city? How lame is that? I know we’re modest people here, but really.

So, to all Philadelphians: Whatever the heck those “telephone number conservation measures” in which you are participating or toward which you are assisting: Knock it off!

Philadelphia needs that third area code.

No, not necessarily because we have so many phone lines, or will have so many phone lines, but because our pride is at stake!

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |