Thursday, May 05, 2011

My number is ...

Following a discussion on Twitter with Dave Gorman and others, I suddenly find myself disturbed by the realisation that I hardly know any phone numbers any more.

There was a time when I knew the numbers of everyone I would ever need to call. I've always been good at remembering stuff. I know my driving licence number and my National insurance number. I know my bank account number and the sort code. I can reel off huge swathes of dialogue from favourite TV shows and movies and even plays I was once in. I know the guitar chords to hundreds of songs and the lyrics to many more. My brain is a mine of trivia. And yet, I have absolutely no idea what my children's mobile numbers are. So if I lose my phone, I'm buggered.

I guess mobiles are the main cause of my conversion from memory man to not-a-fecking-clue man. There are many more phones now than there ever were before; when I was a kid an entire family was serviced by one phone number. It was shorter too. Our phone number when I was a kid was Helston 2233. And that's how we answered the phone. We told people our number. Where was the harm in that after all? I wonder why we don't do that any more? I think it's a fairly recent change in behaviour. TV shows from the 80s and 90s have people giving out their number. Victor Meldrew from One foot in the grave always answered with '4291'. See? I even know his number.

I suppose the reason we've stopped giving our numbers out is the rise in identity theft. Oh, and a good dollop of paranoia about personal safety too. But that doesn't make sense does it? I mean ... If someone calls me they presumably already know my number. Meanwhile, if they have called me by accident - a wrong number - they're unlikely to bother storing my number in their phone (although it will be recorded in the outgoing calls list). And if someone was aiming to use my phone to identify me, my giving the number on answering wouldn't give them any more information than they already have. So why have we stopped? I reckon it's been detrimental. Surely the fact that we no longer give out our numbers has contributed to our inability to remember them? When people used to tell me their number on pick up it helped to cement their number in my memory. I still know the numbers of most of my childhood friends and I'm 50 this year.

Admittedly, it's harder to commit an 11 digit number to memory than '4291' or '2233' but it's not impossible. So I think I'll make the effort.

I guess there must be a lot more wrong numbers these days with fat fingers poking tiny rubber pads and 11 potential mis-pokeable numbers. The chip shop in Helston was 2223 and we often got called by people ordering their suppers. Dad would always take their order and then phone it through to the chip shop rather than the caller having to make another call. Polite if a bit daft. Sadly, that kind of community spirited action is becoming as rare as people knowing their loved ones' phone numbers.

1 comment:

Photoswithattitude said...

My grandads business in High Wycombe had the telephone number "597" - later it changed to "5971" then finally "25971" - I wonder how these numbers were derived?