Sunday, September 25, 2005

Did You Know, Many People's Lives Are Based On Phone Numbers?

A while back I wrote something about HU2-3700 and 588-2300, I might have well have also thrown in 867-5309. Also 591-ROCK & 591-ROLL (bonus points for that reference) It often amazes me what kicks around in one's memory. Recently I began to wonder what if any significance there is to what remains and what fades away. I was thinking about addresses and phone numbers and what I recalled and what I didn't.

For instance, the house I grew up in had three phone numbers, the current one from more than 20 years ago and I remember all of them. My grandmother, who lived a couple blocks away, I can't remember her whole phone number, just that it was a 433 and not a 432 exchange - my recollection is that HP numbers were 432, 433, or 831, and Deerfield was 945. I do remember her next phone number but I think that's a mnemonic 635-6565, just hard to forget and maybe an artifact. I don't think I remember any friends phone numbers from that long ago, although there is an 0549 kicking around in my brain and a 4446 that I believe are significant in some way.

This goes for addresses too, but seeing as how I lived in one house my entire early life I guess it isn't as significant that I remember. It was very strange when the reunion committee had me as lost when if they had dialed the number or sent a card to the address I had in high school they would have gotten my folks.

It also goes for work. I remember the address of the store I worked at: 2099 Skokie Valley Highway, but not the phone number - which I must have dialed something on the order of a million times.

After HP? I can't remember my address or phone for any time I was in the dorms at CMU. I know the apartment address I had my senior year, but not the phone number. I do however remember my soc as if it were tattooed to the back of my eyelids. Anyone who goes to college these days I think winds up committing that 9 digit number to memory. I don't remember either the phone or the address at Northwestern from when I worked at their summer theatre. I do remember 1711 W. Fullerton and 312-348-0115 (later to become 773 - and for that matter the numbers above were all 312 and then 847) for Chicago Scenic Studios, but that may have something to do with my return there 7 years later.

I remember my bosses number at Yale, and the 2 TD extensions, but not the shop. The address was 222 York Street, but that may be another that is sticky. I do remember the apartment address in Branford, but not that phone, nor any friends, nor the addresses or phone numbers of either NJSF or MSMT. I do remember my aunt & uncle's phone number from where I lived for two months, but not the address.

By this time I must have learned and forgotten a bushel of numbers of significant others. All right on my fingertips when I needed them, and now - nothing. Those are numbers I must have dialed a gajillion times. So iterations must not really be part of the process.

Back to Chicago Scenic, but no recollection what so ever of the address or phone in Evanston. This is also the time of the first cell phone number I have since forgotten. The first of a few actually.

I never knew the phone number or the address for the Bellagio. In hindsite that seems fairly foolish since I worked there for a good chunk of time. I had the labor coordinator's cell number and I think eventually my supervisor's cell. All things being equal though, there was a period there where I dropped off the planet. Oh wait, I forgot that I forgot a pager number when I lived in Chicago - and then another pager number I have forgotten from Las Vegas. Although I still have both the pagers, just no service, and absolutely no recollection of the numbers.

I remember everything but the street number for the Vegas apartment - which is just about useless. Plus also zilch on that phone number or the address for TEN - it was on Cameron, but number or zip, right I got zip. My cell from Vegas is a complete blank.

Somewhere around this time I also lost any and all memory of anyone else's phone number. Somehow memory phones as cell phones caught on in a way that speed dial never really did for land lines. I wonder why that is? This is also about the time that one would have to start recalling email addresses and AIM handles.

I remember every email address I have ever had, all the way back to from before anyone even knew what email was and I had to connect to their service with my 32K RAM computer over a 300 baud modem and that was a lot of memory and twice as fast as last years modem. I don't know how good I am at remembering other people's obsolete emails.

Since I've been here I have totally blanked the Walnut street address and phone. I remember the SqHill address, but not the phone - its amazing how fast that went.

I also couldn't tell you the license plate number of my truck right now, I had to write it down. I do however remember what it was when I was in Chicago "YTDP 96." Another mnemonic, probably shouldn't count if we're keeping score. I can't think of a single other license plate I have managed to keep in my memory. Truth be told I don't think I am missing anything.

Addresses, phone numbers, pager numbers, license plates, tax ID numbers, cell numbers, email addresses, its a lot to keep straight. Is it any wonder most of us walk around with three and four address books for this sort of thing now? Back in the day all you had to know was your friends phone number and where their house was. A real cool/lucky friend might have their own line. OOOOOOOOOOOh I'm jealous. Can you imagine what a 13 year old must keep track of now? Phone, address, cell, handle, email, url... It must take a full time assistant to coordinate a slumber party.

So is there a significance? Something to be gleaned from 633 Hill Street, 2099 Skokie Valley Road, 432-4310, YTDP 96, 16 Pine Orchard Road, 348-0115?

Actually, I don't think so. I know it's a lot to read to get to a no, but there it is. I can't find any correlation between the things I do remember and the things I don't. Length of stay? Maybe, but it doesn't hold together well. Iterations of repetition? I don't think so, or some girlfriend from the dawn of time's number would bound to be there. Novelty? Maybe. That's certainly why I remember WLUP's numbers or the Empire Carpet Company. But it seems to have less traction in my personal life.

I just don't know. What do you remember? Why do you think that piece remains for you?

Small tip of the hat to Douglas Adams and Eddie the Computer for the title of today's post.


Peg said...

My family says I've inherited my grandmother's memory. We moved around a lot growing up, and I can remember every single address. Not always the phone number, but most of them.

When my sister was a social worker she had to have a background check done. They asked for every single address she had ever lived at, ever. She asked if they were *sure* they wanted *every* address, and they said yes. So she called me and I gave her the info over the phone.

Memory is such an interesting thing to me. Who knows why I can still remember the Time-Life subscription number from commercials from 1982 (1-800-641-8200, in case you were wondering) but not my brother's cell phone number?

Anonymous said...

621-5808 - that's the number to donate to WQED during their pledge drives. How weird is it that I remember that?

I think it partly has to do with how old you were when you learned the number - like how you learn languages better when you're younger - I think it works with numbers too - they get ingrained in your brain and never leave...

Either that or I just sat through a few too many pledge drives, waiting for Mr. Rodgers to come back on...

=) S.