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A numbers freak bemoans the 236 area code

July 29th, 2011 · 30 Comments

I love numbers. I remember my waitress number from my university days, “8,” because it was my favourite. I wasn’t surprised to hear later in life that it’s considered lucky to the Chinese.

One of my favourite memories of high school is my math teacher, Mr. Ryan (who encouraged me in math at a time when girls like me, even when good at it, tended to downplay their math skills), telling us about a famous mathematician who, hearing some 11-digit number on his deathbed, instantly recalled its square root or some such apocryphal thing. I related.

So naturally, I bond with telephone numbers that are both rhythmic (the last four digits of my land line, 6930, all multiples of 3) and meaningful. As a reporter, it was a thrill seeing numbers and knowing instantly what that told me about the person: 261/3/4/5/6 — Kerrisdale/Shaughnessy/Dunbar; 253/4/5 – the Republic of East Van; 681/2/4/5/7/8 – some single person in the West End.

And it was so helpful for finding people. Whenever I was looking for a school principal or a company president with a common last name, I’d call all the west side and West Van numbers (922/4/6) first. It was remarkably efficient.

Then came cellphones, which disconnected numbers from their geography. Argh. Then the 778 area code. So ugly, not something harmonious like 604 or 250. How can you have an area code with no zero? It’s unnatural.

And now 236, which is both ugly and probably is just going to be assigned randomly to people all over the region. Are the phone people trying to make me seasick?

The only fun I have any more is guessing, by the number, which cellphone provider people are using. Or, occasionally, I’ll get a call from someone who I know lives on the west side but who has a 322 or 321 landline number. Aha, migrants from southeast Vancouver who made good, I think.

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