Monday, October 08, 2007

Are You in the 212?


Call it a vanity tax this forty-some odd dollars a month I pay to keep my status as a "real" Manhattanite. It is proof of my seniority, a link to my paid dues, this phone line I never use but keep in service simply because it begins with the area code 212.

New Yorkers are snobs, or rather, Manhattanites are snobs, myself included. We size people up by a mere street address, zip code or telephone exchange. (In a city of so many people one has to categorize some how.) This wasn't always possible with area codes, however. At one time all five boroughs of New York were in the 212. Then in the '80s 718 was introduced and assigned to Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island, Manhattan and the Bronx remained 212. But in 1992 the Bronx, too, joined the ranks of the other outer boroughs leaving only Manhattan as 212 with all the snobbery, seniority and bragging rights that accompany it.

Well, imagine our dismay about 10 years ago when Manhattan ran out of 212 phone numbers and new numbers were being assigned to 917--an area code that had previously been reserved for cell phones. No one could imagine Manhattan without a 212 area code. In fact, we didn't even have to dial it back then--all you needed was a good old fashioned 7-digit number, it was understood that the area code was 212. The worst part about the implementation of 917 was that it would be used on a "rolling" basis, meaning that it could be assigned to any new number at any time, ANYWHERE in Manhattan. There was no neighborhood that was safe, no place to move to continue to enjoy the cache that comes with 212. The only defense was to hold on to your 212 number for dear life if you had one. I ask you, how else would anyone know that I didn't just fall off a turnip truck at the Farmer's Market or arrived in Times Square last Wednesday week with stars in my eyes if it weren't for my 212 phone number? And, by the way, I am not alone in this thinking--many New Yorkers are in the same quandary. And so, I pay my $40 a month.

In my particular case however, I had to fight for my 212 number, so I'm not about to give it up lightly. When I moved from The Village to the Upper West Side almost eight years ago I couldn't take my number with me. So when I called to have my telephone service hooked up, my worst fears were realized--they were planning to give me a 917 number! Luckily the young women I spoke to on the phone that day either felt pity or amusement by my long winded, eccentric explanation as to why I could not possibly have a 917 number. She asked me to hold for a few minutes which I did. After a full 5 or 6 minutes she came back on the line and explained that she just obtained special permission to open a whole new block of 212 numbers for the Upper West Side. So anyone with a 579 telephone exchange on the Upper West Side has me to thank.

The great irony is that I never even use my coveted 212 number anymore. At some point it just got easier with all the traveling I used to do for work to simply use my cell phone--a 917 number. For a while only telemarketers and my mother ever called my 212 land line. Then I got on the Do Not Call list and my mother finally wised up and started calling my cell phone, too. So now, for my $40 I get maybe 4 or 5 calls a month--but it's worth every penny.

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10 Comments:

At 12:02 PM, Blogger Donnie said...

Silly Manhattanite! My parents left NY around 1962 (after my sister was born in St. Albans Naval Hospital)...and back then, their phone number was the old ones with a name at the beginning like "SUnset 1-6213"

 
At 8:24 PM, Blogger judy said...

I think your accomodating phone company lady was thoroughly convinced, as I think we all are now, that you are definitely eccentric enough to qualify for the coveted 212 Manhattan exchange. Congratulations, you are officially a "New York character".

 
At 8:52 PM, Blogger Matt said...

I've heard of this phenomenon, and I can actually understand it.

You are, though, a New York Character. :)

 
At 12:00 PM, Blogger Diane said...

I totally understand this post. As you know, we recently moved to Brooklyn. This has meant all manner of indignities (no cabs, fewer dining/take out options, relying on the subway, etc.) The worst though happened this week when I had our landline set up. When I asked what our phone number would be, I was told it was a 347 area code. What the hell is that?! I don't think I've ever even HEARD of a 347 area code. I found myself begging for a 718 area code. How low have we fallen exactly? Low enough to beg for a proper outer-borough area code apparently. I was told I could have a 718 area code if I paid $100. I refused, telling the phone guy that we'd had a 212 area code for a long time and never had to pay for it. It came with living in Manhattan. His response? "What can I say, lady. Move back if you want a fancy area code so badly." Believe me -- we would! If we could afford the $5K/month rent it costs for a decent family sized apartment. I guess nothing is really free here...

I'm clinging to my 917 cell area code for dear life. The only indication I've been in New York longer than 15 minutes...

 
At 2:47 PM, Blogger RG said...

This post is quite funny and sad at the same time!

 
At 9:34 AM, Blogger Michael said...

Diane--Too funny! You are you're brother's sister! I can just see myself going off to the phone company about how I never had to pay for my 212 area code either. The guy's response was so wonderfully New York, too, and also proves my point about the "fancy" area code phenomenon here.

 
At 9:31 PM, Blogger Salvatore said...

Why don't you people that keep a 212 land line just port your 212 phone number to your cell phones. It's free...then you can live in Brooklyn, Staten Island, the Bronx, Queens or Manhattan and keep your 212 number. I'm living in Albany and I have a 212 number. Get up with the times people.

 
At 4:36 PM, Blogger Bert said...

212 numbers aren't that hard to get. At any given time, there are at least several people on eBay selling pre-paid cellphone SIM cards with a 212 number already assigned. Take that number and port it where you like.

 
At 5:10 PM, Blogger Salvatore said...

Bert you are a smart fellow my friend. I am one of those guys that sells them...I have 2 on ebay right now. If anybody needs one email me: 212numbers4sale@gmail.com

 
At 6:22 PM, Blogger Digipower said...

or go to www.212areacode.com

 

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